Characterisation of genetic risk factors for mental illness in rodent models, impact of Map2k7+/- and Fxyd6-/- mice on neural systems and working memory

  • Mark Mcrobbie Hanlon

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Even in wealthy and seemingly prosperous countries like the United Kingdom, the spectre of mental illness and psychiatric disorders remains highly prevalent. These disorders present a huge economic burden to societies, where in the UK alone, mental disorders cost the economy an estimated €134 billion a year; along with the unmeasurable societal and human costs. This has led to an intense debate over the past few decades just as to what factors contribute to these illnesses. It is now understood that a number of biological and non-biological factors contribute. These include socio-economic pressures, early-life trauma, gestational and peri-natal infections; genetic and familial factors, and molecular and cellular factors. However, while the definitions and diagnostic criteria of mental disorders remain based in the subjective realms of the DSM and ICD, treatment and understanding of psychiatric illness has had little chance to progress over the last fifty years. As a result, neuroscientists are starting to direct psychiatric disorder research from the bottom-up; where genetic, cognitive and neuroconnectivity factors are being investigated to serve as a future basis for diagnosis and treatment. One of the most complex and debilitating psychiatric disorders, schizophrenia, exhibits a complex array of genetic, cognitive and neuroconnectivity abnormalities. Current challenges in schizophrenia research is to understand how identified genetic abnormalities contribute to neuroconnectivity and cognitive impairments which are prominent in schizophrenia. Recently, genetic association studies have implicated two genes as risk factors for schizophrenia - FXYD6 and MAP2K7. Currently it is unclear exactly how these genes contribute to schizophrenia pathology, particularly cognitive symptoms and neural circuitry.;This thesis investigates these two genes by utilising two mouse models, first a heterozygous mouse line of Map2k7+/- and second, a gene knock-out line of Fxyd6-/-. MAP2K7 is a gene that expresses a kinase that is involved in the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway, which is implicated in neuronal activity, receptor function, and cortical and hippocampal plasticity. Recent studies have found a decreased expression of MA2PK7 in the PFC, ACC and hippocampal regions in schizophrenia patients; regions associated with memory and decision making. A component of the cognitive profile of MAP2K7 was therefore investigated using Map2k7+/- mouse lines in a working memory paradigm in the radial arm maze. This test is known as the n-back test or the retention interval test. For the first time this investigation reveals that Map2k7+/- mice exhibit a subtle yet significant spatial working memory deficit compared to WT mice; as judged by their average performance over the whole experiment. WT mice exhibited an overall average performance of 70% and MAP2K7+/- mice 66% (p
Date of Award25 Sep 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorShuzo Sakata (Supervisor) & Judith Pratt (Supervisor)

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