Slitrk1-deficient mice display elevated anxiety-like behavior and noradrenergic abnormalities.
Mutations in SLITRK1 are found in patients with Tourette's syndrome and trichotillomania. SLITRK1 encodes a transmembrane protein containing leucine-rich repeats that is produced predominantly in the nervous system. However, the role of this protein is largely unknown, except that it can modulate neurite outgrowth in vitro. To clarify the role of Slitrk1 in vivo, we developed Slitrk1-knockout mice and analyzed their behavioral and neurochemical phenotypes. Slitrk1-deficient mice exhibited elevated anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus-maze test as well as increased immobility time in forced swimming and tail suspension tests. Neurochemical analysis revealed that Slitrk1-knockout mice had increased levels of norepinephrine and its metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol. Administration of clonidine, an alpha2-adrenergic agonist that is frequently used to treat patients with Tourette's syndrome, attenuated the anxiety-like behavior of Slitrk1-deficient mice in the elevated plus-maze test. These results lead us to conclude that noradrenergic mechanisms are involved in the behavioral abnormalities of Slitrk1-deficient mice. Elevated anxiety due to Slitrk1 dysfunction may contribute to the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric diseases such as Tourette's syndrome and trichotillomania.