Year: 2017 Source: Translational Psychiatry. (2017). 7(7): e1161. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.132 SIEC No: 20170414

Neuregulin-1 (NRG1) and ErbB receptors have been associated with psychopathology, and NRG1-ErbB3 signaling has been shown to increase hippocampal neurogenesis and induce antidepressant-like effects. In this study, we aimed to determine whether deficits in NRG1 or ErbBs might be present in the hippocampus of suicide completers. In well-characterized postmortem hippocampal samples from suicides and matched sudden-death controls, we assessed gene expression and methylation using qRT-PCR and EpiTYPER, respectively. Moreover, in hippocampal tissues stained with cresyl violet, stereology was used to quantify numbers of granule cells and of glia. Granule cell body size was examined with a nucleator probe, and granule cell layer volume with a Cavalieri probe. Unmedicated suicides showed sharply decreased hippocampal ErbB3 expression and decreased numbers of ErbB3-expressing granule cell neurons in the anterior dentate gyrus; a phenomenon seemingly reversed by antidepressant treatment. Furthermore, we found ErbB3 expression to be significantly decreased in the dentate gyrus of adult mice exposed to chronic social defeat stress. Taken together, these results reveal novel suicidal endophenotypes in the hippocampus, as well as a putative etiological mechanism underlying suicidality, and suggest that antidepressant or NRG1 treatment may reverse a potential deficit in anterior dentate gyrus granule cell neurons in individuals at risk of dying by suicide.