Inhibitory neurotransmission in amygdala is important for fear learning and memory. However, mechanisms that control the inhibitory activity in amygdala are not well understood. We provide evidence that neuregulin 1 (NRG1) and its receptor ErbB4 tyrosine kinase are critical for maintaining GABAergic activity in amygdala. Neutralizing endogenous NRG1, inhibition, or genetic ablation of ErbB4, which was expressed in a majority of palvalbumin (PV)+ neurons in amygdala, reduced GABAergic transmission and inhibited tone-cued fear conditioning. Specific ablation of ErbB4 in PV+ neurons reduced eIPSC/eEPSC ratios and impaired fear conditioning. Notably, expression of ErbB4 in amygdala was sufficient to diminish synaptic dysfunction and fear conditioning deficits in PV-ErbB4-/- mice. These observations indicated that NRG1 signaling maintains high GABAergic activity in amygdala and, thus, regulates fear memory. Considering that both NRG1 and ErbB4 are susceptibility genes of schizophrenia, our study sheds light on potential pathophysiological mechanisms of this disorder.
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