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Stephan, Marius ORCID: 0000-0003-1889-3049; Schoeller, Jonathan; Raabe, Florian J.; Schmitt, Andrea; Hasan, Alkomiet; Falkai, Peter; Jensen, Niels; Rossner, Moritz J. ORCID: 0000-0002-0667-3420 (2022): Spironolactone alleviates schizophrenia-related reversal learning in Tcf4 transgenic mice subjected to social defeat. Schizophrenia, 8: 77. ISSN 2754-6993

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Cognitive deficits are a hallmark of schizophrenia, for which no convincing pharmacological treatment option is currently available. Here, we tested spironolactone as a repurposed compound in Tcf4 transgenic mice subjected to psychosocial stress. In this ‘2-hit’ gene by environment mouse (GxE) model, the animals showed schizophrenia-related cognitive deficits. We had previously shown that spironolactone ameliorates working memory deficits and hyperactivity in a mouse model of cortical excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) dysbalance caused by an overactive NRG1-ERBB4 signaling pathway. In an add-on clinical study design, we used spironolactone as adjuvant medication to the standard antipsychotic drug aripiprazole. We characterized the compound effects using our previously established Platform for Systematic Semi-Automated Behavioral and Cognitive Profiling (PsyCoP). PsyCoP is a widely applicable analysis pipeline based on the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework aiming at facilitating translation into the clinic. In addition, we use dimensional reduction to analyze and visualize overall treatment effect profiles. We found that spironolactone and aripiprazole improve deficits of several cognitive domains in Tcf4tg x SD mice but partially interfere with each other’s effect in the combination therapy. A similar interaction was detected for the modulation of novelty-induced activity. In addition to its strong activity-dampening effects, we found an increase in negative valence measures as a side effect of aripiprazole treatment in mice. We suggest that repurposed drug candidates should first be tested in an adequate preclinical setting before initiating clinical trials. In addition, a more specific and effective NRG1-ERBB4 pathway inhibitor or more potent E/I balancing drug might enhance the ameliorating effect on cognition even further.

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