Discoveries in Down syndrome: Moving basic science to clinical care

Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
Progress in brain research (Impact Factor: 2.83). 01/2012; 197:199-221. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-444-54299-1.00010-8
Source: PubMed


This review describes recent discoveries in neurobiology of Down syndrome (DS) achieved with use of mouse genetic models and provides an overview of experimental approaches aimed at development of pharmacological restoration of cognitive function in people with this developmental disorder. Changes in structure and function of synaptic connections within the hippocampal formation of DS model mice, as well as alterations in innervations of the hippocampus by noradrenergic and cholinergic neuromodulatory systems, provided important clues for potential pharmacological treatments of cognitive disabilities in DS. Possible molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying this genetic disorder have been addressed. We discuss novel mechanisms engaging misprocessing of amyloid precursor protein (App) and other proteins, through their affect on axonal transport and endosomal dysfunction, to "Alzheimer-type" neurodegenerative processes that affect cognition later in life. In conclusion, a number of therapeutic strategies have been defined that may restore cognitive function in mouse models of DS. In the juvenile and young animals, these strategists focus on restoration of synaptic plasticity, rate of adult neurogenesis, and functions of the neuromodulatory subcortical systems. Later in life, the major focus is on recuperation of misprocessed App and related proteins. It is hoped that the identification of an increasing number of potential targets for pharmacotherapy of cognitive deficits in DS will add to the momentum for creating and completing clinical trials.

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    • "There is widespread agreement that deficits in memory contribute significantly to the overall burden of intellectual difficulties in people with DS (Contestabile et al., 2010). Mouse genetic models have provided important insights into the genes and mechanisms responsible for DS-specific changes (Reeves, 2006; Hanson et al., 2007; Moore and Roper, 2007; Salehi et al., 2007; Gotti et al., 2011; Liu et al., 2011; Popov et al., 2011; Kleschevnikov et al., 2012b; Zhang et al., 2012). The Ts65Dn mouse bears an extra copy of approximately half the genes homologous to those on human chromosome 21 (Davisson et al., 1993; Olson et al., 2007; Sturgeon and Gardiner, 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive impairment in Down syndrome (DS) is characterized by deficient learning and memory. Mouse genetic models of DS exhibit impaired cognition in hippocampally mediated behavioral tasks and reduced synaptic plasticity of hippocampal pathways. Enhanced efficiency of GABAergic neurotransmission was implicated in those changes. We have recently shown that signaling through postsynaptic GABA(B) receptors is significantly increased in the dentate gyrus of Ts65Dn mice, a genetic model of DS. Here we examined a role for GABA(B) receptors in cognitive deficits in DS by defining the effect of selective GABA(B) receptor antagonists on behavior and synaptic plasticity of adult Ts65Dn mice. Treatment with the GABA(B) receptor antagonist CGP55845 restored memory of Ts65Dn mice in the novel place recognition, novel object recognition, and contextual fear conditioning tasks, but did not affect locomotion and performance in T-maze. The treatment increased hippocampal levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, equally in 2N and Ts65Dn mice. In hippocampal slices, treatment with the GABA(B) receptor antagonists CGP55845 or CGP52432 enhanced long-term potentiation (LTP) in the Ts65Dn DG. The enhancement of LTP was accompanied by an increase in the NMDA receptor-mediated component of the tetanus-evoked responses. These findings are evidence for a contribution of GABA(B) receptors to changes in hippocampal-based cognition in the Ts65Dn mouse. The ability to rescue cognitive performance through treatment with selective GABA(B) receptor antagonists motivates studies to further explore the therapeutic potential of these compounds in people with DS.
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    ABSTRACT: Down's syndrome (DS) is caused by triplication of all or part of human chromosome 21 and is characterized by a decrease in the overall size of the brain. One of the brain regions most affected is the cerebellum, in which the number of granule cells (GCs) is markedly decreased. GCs process sensory information entering the cerebellum via mossy fibres and pass it on to Purkinje cells and inhibitory interneurons. How GCs transform incoming signals depends on their input--output relationship, which is adjusted by tonically active GABAA receptor channels. We report that in the Ts65Dn mouse model of DS, in which cerebellar volume and GC number are decreased as in DS, the tonic GABAA receptor current in GCs is smaller than in wild-type mice and is less effective in moderating input resistance and raising the minimum current required for action potential firing. We also find that tonically active GABAA receptors curb the height and broaden the width of action potentials in wild-type GCs but not in Ts65Dn GCs. Single-cell real-time quantitative PCR reveals that these electrical differences are accompanied by decreased expression of the gene encoding the GABAA receptor beta3 subunit but not genes coding for some of the other GABAA receptor subunits expressed in GCs (alpha1, alpha6, beta2 and delta). Weaker moderation of excitability and action potential waveform in GCs of the Ts65Dn mouse by tonically active GABAA receptors is likely to contribute to atypical transfer of information through the cerebellum. Similar changes may occur in DS.
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