Article

Selective discrimination learning impairments in mice expressing the human Huntington's disease mutation.

Department of Pharmacology, Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 01/2000; 19(23):10428-37.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cognitive decline is apparent in the early stages of Huntington's disease and progressively worsens throughout the course of the disease. Expression of the human Huntington's disease mutation in mice (R6/2 line) causes a progressive neurological phenotype with motor symptoms resembling those seen in Huntington's disease. Here we describe the cognitive performance of R6/2 mice using four different tests (Morris water maze, visual cliff avoidance, two-choice swim tank, and T-maze). Behavioral testing was performed on R6/2 transgenic mice and their wild-type littermates between 3 and 14.5 weeks of age, using separate groups of mice for each test. R6/2 mice did not show an overt motor phenotype until approximately 8 weeks of age. However, between 3.5 and 8 weeks of age, R6/2 mice displayed progressive deterioration in specific aspects of learning in the Morris water maze, visual cliff, two-choice swim tank, and T-maze tasks. The age of onset and progression of the deficits in the individual tasks differed depending on the particular task demands. Thus, as seen in humans with Huntington's disease, R6/2 mice develop progressive learning impairments on cognitive tasks sensitive to frontostriatal and hippocampal function. We suggest that R6/2 mice provide not only a model for studying cognitive and motor changes in trinucleotide repeat disorders, but also a framework within which the functional efficacy of therapeutic strategies aimed at treating such diseases can be tested.

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    ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects the medium-size GABAergic neurons of striatum. The R6/2 mouse line is one of the most widely used animal models of HD. Previously the hallmarks of HD-related pathology have been detected in photoreceptors and interneurons of R6/2 mouse retina. Here we aimed to explore the survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and functional integrity of distinct retinal cell populations in R6/2 mice. The pattern electroretinography (PERG) signal was lost at the age of 8 weeks in R6/2 mice in contrast to the situation in wild-type (WT) littermates. This defect may be attributable to a major reduction in photopic ERG responses in R6/2 mice which was more evident in b- than a-wave amplitudes. At the age of 4 weeks R6/2 mice had predominantly the soluble form of mutant huntingtin protein (mHtt) in the RGC layer cells, whereas the aggregated form of mHtt was found in the majority of those cells from the 12-week-old R6/2 mice and onwards. Retinal astrocytes did not contain mHtt deposits. The total numbers of RGC layer cells, retinal astrocytes as well as optic nerve axons did not differ between 18-week-old R6/2 mice and their WT controls. Our data indicate that mHtt deposition does not cause RGC degeneration or retinal astrocyte loss in R6/2 mice even at a late stage of HD-related pathology. However, due to functional deficits in the rod- and cone-pathways, the R6/2 mice suffer progressive deficits in visual capabilities starting as early as 4 weeks; at 8 weeks there is severe impairment. This should be taken into account in any behavioral testing conducted in R6/2 mice.
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    ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder caused by the expansion of a polyglutamine stretch within the huntingtin protein (HTT). The neurological symptoms, that involve motor, cognitive and psychiatric disturbances, are caused by neurodegeneration that is particularly widespread in the basal ganglia and cereberal cortex. HTT is ubiquitously expressed and in recent years it has become apparent that HD patients experience a wide array of peripheral organ dysfunction including severe metabolic phenotype, weight loss, HD-related cardiomyopathy and skeletal muscle wasting. Although skeletal muscles pathology became a hallmark of HD, the mechanisms underlying muscular atrophy in this disorder are unknown. Skeletal muscles account for approximately 40% of body mass and are highly adaptive to physiological and pathological conditions that may result in muscle hypertrophy (due to increased mechanical load) or atrophy (inactivity, chronic disease states). The atrophy is caused by degeneration of myofibers and their replacement by fibrotic tissue is the major pathological feature in many genetic muscle disorders. Under normal physiological conditions the muscle function is orchestrated by a network of intrinsic hypertrophic and atrophic signals linked to the functional properties of the motor units that are likely to be imbalanced in HD. In this article, we highlight the emerging field of research with particular focus on the recent studies of the skeletal muscle pathology and the identification of new disease-modifying treatments.
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