Extensive early motor and non-motor behavioral deficits are followed by striatal neuronal loss in knock-in Huntington's disease mice.

Department of Neurology, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, Reed Neurological Research Center B114, 710 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.33). 09/2008; 157(1):280-95. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.08.041
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, caused by an elongation of CAG repeats in the huntingtin gene. Mice with an insertion of an expanded polyglutamine repeat in the mouse huntingtin gene (knock-in mice) most closely model the disease because the mutation is expressed in the proper genomic and protein context. However, few knock-in mouse lines have been extensively characterized and available data suggest marked differences in the extent and time course of their behavioral and pathological phenotype. We have previously described behavioral anomalies in the open field as early as 1 month of age, followed by the appearance at 2 months of progressive huntingtin neuropathology, in a mouse carrying a portion of human exon 1 with approximately 140 CAG repeats inserted into the mouse huntingtin gene. Here we extend these observations by showing that early behavioral anomalies exist in a wide range of motor (climbing, vertical pole, rotarod, and running wheel performance) and non-motor functions (fear conditioning and anxiety) starting at 1-4 months of age, and are followed by progressive gliosis and decrease in dopamine and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein with molecular weight 32 kDa (DARPP32) (12 months) and a loss of striatal neurons at 2 years. At this age, mice also present striking spontaneous behavioral deficits in their home cage. The data show that this line of knock-in mice reproduces canonical characteristics of Huntington's disease, preceded by deficits which may correspond to the protracted pre-manifest phase of the disease in humans. Accordingly, they provide a useful model to elucidate early mechanisms of pathophysiology and the progression to overt neurodegeneration.

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