Immediate early genes (IEGs) of the early growth response gene (Egr) family are activated in the brain in response to stress, social stimuli, and administration of psycho-active medications. However, little is known about the role of these genes in the biological or behavioral response to these stimuli. Here we show that mice lacking the IEG transcription factor Egr3 (Egr3-/- mice) display increased aggression, and a decreased latency to attack, in response to the stressful social stimulus of a foreign intruder. Together with our findings of persistent and intrusive olfactory-mediated social investigation of conspecifics, these results suggest increased impulsivity in Egr3-/- mice. We also show that the aggression of Egr3-/- mice is significantly inhibited with chronic administration of the antipsychotic medication clozapine. Despite their sensitivity to this therapeutic effect of clozapine, Egr3-/- mice display a marked resistance to the sedating effects of acute clozapine compared with WT littermate controls. This indicates that the therapeutic, anti-aggressive action of clozapine is separable from its sedating activity, and that the biological abnormality resulting from loss of Egr3 distinguishes these different mechanisms. Thus Egr3-/- mice may provide an important tool for elucidating the mechanism of action of clozapine, as well as for understanding the biology underlying aggressive behavior. Notably, schizophrenia patients display a similar decreased susceptibility to the side effects of antipsychotic medications compared to non-psychiatric controls, despite the medications producing a therapeutic response. This suggests the possibility that Egr3-/- mice may provide insight into the neurobiological abnormalities underlying schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1266-1275
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Behavior
  • Clozapine
  • Egr3
  • Immediate early gene
  • Schizophrenia
  • Stress


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