P-Rex1 Overexpression Results in Aberrant Neuronal Polarity and Psychosis-Related Behaviors

Qiongwei Li 1,2,3 • Lifang Wang 1,2,3 • Yuanlin Ma 1,2,3 • Weihua Yue 1,2,3,5 • Dai Zhang 1,2,3,4,5 • Jun Li 1,2,3

1 Peking University Institute of Mental Health, Peking University Sixth Hospital, Beijing 100191, China

2 National Health Center Key Laboratory of Mental Health (Peking University), Beijing 100191, China

3 National Clinical Research Center for Mental Disorders, Peking University Sixth Hospital, Beijing 100191, China

4 Peking-Tsinghua Center for Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China

5 PKU-IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China


Neuronal polarity is involved in multiple developmental stages, including cortical neuron migration, multipolar-to-bipolar transition, axon initiation, apical/basal dendrite differentiation, and spine formation. All of these processes are associated with the cytoskeleton and are regulated by precise timing and by controlling gene expression. The P-Rex1 (phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-trisphosphate dependent Rac exchange factor 1) gene for example, is known to be important for cytoskeletal reorganization, cell motility, and migration. Deficiency of P-Rex1 protein leads to abnormal neuronal migration and synaptic plasticity, as well as autism-related behaviors. Nonetheless, the effects of P-Rex1 overexpression on neuronal development and higher brain functions remain unclear. In the present study, we explored the effect of P-Rex1 overexpression on cerebral development and psychosis-related behaviors in mice. In utero electroporation at embryonic day 14.5 was used to assess the influence of P-Rex1 overexpression on cell polarity and migration. Primary neuron culture was used to explore the effects of P-Rex1 overexpression on neuritogenesis and spine morphology. In addition, P-Rex1 overexpression in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of mice was used to assess psychosis-related behaviors. We found that P-Rex1 overexpression led to aberrant polarity and inhibited the multipolar-to-bipolar transition, leading to abnormal neuronal migration. In addition, P-Rex1 overexpression affected the early development of neurons, manifested as abnormal neurite initiation with cytoskeleton change, reduced the axon length and dendritic complexity, and caused excessive lamellipodia in primary neuronal culture. Moreover, P-Rex1 overexpression decreased the density of spines with increased height, width, and head area in vitro and in vivo. Behavioral tests showed that P-Rex1 overexpression in the mouse mPFC caused anxiety-like behaviors and a sensorimotor gating deficit. The appropriate P-Rex1 level plays a critical role in the developing cerebral cortex and excessive P-Rex1 might be related to psychosis-related behaviors.


P-Rex1; Neurodevelopment; Polarity; Lamellipodia; Psychosis-related behavior


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