ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) patients suffer from progressive and debilitating motor dysfunction. Previously, we discovered reduced skeletal muscle chloride channel (ClC-1) currents, inwardly rectifying potassium (Kir) channel currents, and membrane capacitance in R6/2 transgenic HD mice. The ClC-1 loss-of-function correlated with increased aberrant mRNA processing and decreased levels of full-length ClC-1 mRNA (Clcn1 gene). Physiologically, the resulting muscle hyperexcitability may help explain involuntary contractions of HD. In this study, the onset and progression of these defects are investigated in R6/2 mice, ranging from 3 wk old (presymptomatic) to 9-13 wk old (late-stage disease), and compared with age-matched wild-type (WT) siblings. The R6/2 ClC-1 current density and level of aberrantly spliced Clcn1 mRNA remain constant with age. In contrast, the ClC-1 current density increases, and the level of aberrantly spliced Clcn1 mRNA decreases with age in WT mice. The R6/2 ClC-1 properties diverge from WT before the onset of motor symptoms, which occurs at 5 wk of age. The relative decrease in R6/2 muscle capacitance also begins in 5-wk-old mice and is independent of fiber atrophy. Kir current density is consistently lower in R6/2 compared with WT muscle. The invariable R6/2 ClC-1 properties suggest a disruption in muscle maturation, which we confirm by measuring elevated levels of neonatal myosin heavy chain (MyHC) in late-stage R6/2 skeletal muscle. Similar changes in ClC-1 and MyHC isoforms in the more slowly developing Q175 HD mice suggest an altered maturational state is relevant to adult-onset HD. Finally, we find nuclear aggregates of muscleblind-like protein 1 without predominant CAG repeat colocalization in R6/2 muscle. This is unlike myotonic dystrophy, another trinucleotide repeat disorder with similar ClC-1 defects, and suggests a novel mechanism of aberrant mRNA splicing in HD. These early and progressive skeletal muscle defects reveal much needed peripheral biomarkers of disease progression and better elucidate the mechanism underlying HD myopathy.
Project description:Huntington disease is a progressive and fatal genetic disorder with debilitating motor and cognitive defects. Chorea, rigidity, dystonia, and muscle weakness are characteristic motor defects of the disease that are commonly attributed to central neurodegeneration. However, no previous study has examined the membrane properties that control contraction in Huntington disease muscle. We show primary defects in ex vivo adult skeletal muscle from the R6/2 transgenic mouse model of Huntington disease. Action potentials in diseased fibers are more easily triggered and prolonged than in fibers from WT littermates. Furthermore, some action potentials in the diseased fibers self-trigger. These defects occur because of decreases in the resting chloride and potassium conductances. Consistent with this, the expression of the muscle chloride channel, ClC-1, in Huntington disease muscle was compromised by improper splicing and a corresponding reduction in total Clcn1 (gene for ClC-1) mRNA. Additionally, the total Kcnj2 (gene for the Kir2.1 potassium channel) mRNA was reduced in disease muscle. The resulting muscle hyperexcitability causes involuntary and prolonged contractions that may contribute to the chorea, rigidity, and dystonia that characterize Huntington disease.
Project description:Huntington´s disease (HD) is a hereditary neurodegenerative disease resulting from an expanded polyglutamine sequence (poly-Q) in the protein huntingtin (HTT). Various studies report atrophy and metabolic pathology of skeletal muscle in HD and suggest as part of the process a fast-to-slow fiber type transition that may be caused by the pathological changes in central motor control or/and by mutant HTT in the muscle tissue itself. To investigate muscle pathology in HD, we used R6/2 mice, a common animal model for a rapidly progressing variant of the disease expressing exon 1 of the mutant human gene. We investigated alterations in the extensor digitorum longus (EDL), a typical fast-twitch muscle, and the soleus (SOL), a slow-twitch muscle. We focussed on mechanographic measurements of excised muscles using single and repetitive electrical stimulation and on the expression of the various myosin isoforms (heavy and light chains) using dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) of whole muscle and single fiber preparations. In EDL of R6/2, the functional tests showed a left shift of the force-frequency relation and decrease in specific force. Moreover, the estimated relative contribution of the fastest myosin isoform MyHC IIb decreased, whereas the contribution of the slower MyHC IIx isoform increased. An additional change occurred in the alkali MyLC forms showing a decrease in 3f and an increase in 1f level. In SOL, a shift from fast MyHC IIa to the slow isoform I was detectable in male R6/2 mice only, and there was no evidence of isoform interconversion in the MyLC pattern. These alterations point to a partial remodeling of the contractile apparatus of R6/2 mice towards a slower contractile phenotype, predominantly in fast glycolytic fibers.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal genetic neurological disorder caused by a mutation in the human Huntingtin (HTT) gene. This mutation confers a toxic gain of function of the encoded mutant huntingtin (mHTT) protein, leading to widespread neuropathology including the formation of mHTT-positive inclusion bodies, gene dysregulation, reduced levels of adult dentate gyrus neurogenesis and neuron loss throughout many regions of the brain. Additionally, because HTT is ubiquitously expressed, several peripheral tissues are also affected. HD patients suffer from progressive motor, cognitive, psychiatric, and metabolic symptoms, including weight loss and skeletal muscle wasting. HD patients also show neuroendocrine changes including a robust, significant elevation in circulating levels of the glucocorticoid, cortisol. Previously, we confirmed that the R6/2 mouse model of HD exhibits elevated corticosterone (the rodent homolog of cortisol) levels and demonstrated that experimentally elevated corticosterone exacerbates R6/2 HD symptomology, resulting in severe and rapid weight loss and a shorter latency to death. Given that efficacious therapeutics are lacking for HD, here we investigated whether normalizing glucocorticoid levels could serve as a viable therapeutic approach for this disease. We tested the hypothesis that normalizing glucocorticoids to wild-type levels would ameliorate HD symptomology. Wild-type (WT) and transgenic R6/2 mice were allocated to three treatment groups: 1) adrenalectomy with normalized, WT-level corticosterone replacement (10??g/ml), 2) adrenalectomy with high HD-level corticosterone replacement (35??g/ml), or 3) sham surgery with no corticosterone replacement. Normalizing corticosterone to WT levels led to an improvement in metabolic rate in male R6/2 mice, as indicated by indirect calorimetry, including a reduction in oxygen consumption and normalization of respiratory exchange ratio values (p?<?.05 for both). Normalizing corticosterone also ameliorated brain atrophy in female R6/2 mice and skeletal muscle wasting in both male and female R6/2 mice (p?<?.05 for all). Female R6/2 mice given WT-level corticosterone replacement also showed a reduction in HD neuropathological markers, including a reduction in mHTT inclusion burden in the striatum, cortex, and hippocampus (p?<?.05 for all). This data illustrates that ameliorating glucocorticoid dysregulation leads to a significant improvement in HD symptomology in the R6/2 mouse model and suggests that cortisol-reducing therapeutics may be of value in improving HD patient quality of life.
Project description:Myotonia congenita (MC) is an inherited muscle disease characterized by impaired muscle relaxation after contraction, resulting in muscle stiffness. Both recessive (Becker's disease) or dominant (Thomsen's disease) MC are caused by mutations in the CLCN1 gene encoding the voltage-dependent chloride ClC-1 channel, which is quite exclusively expressed in skeletal muscle. More than 200 CLCN1 mutations have been associated with MC. We provide herein a detailed clinical, molecular, and functional evaluation of four patients with recessive MC belonging to three different families. Four CLCN1 variants were identified, three of which have never been characterized. The c.244A>G (p.T82A) and c.1357C>T (p.R453W) variants were each associated in compound heterozygosity with c.568GG>TC (p.G190S), for which pathogenicity is already known. The new c.809G>T (p.G270V) variant was found in the homozygous state. Patch-clamp studies of ClC-1 mutants expressed in tsA201 cells confirmed the pathogenicity of p.G270V, which greatly shifts the voltage dependence of channel activation toward positive potentials. Conversely, the mechanisms by which p.T82A and p.R453W cause the disease remained elusive, as the mutated channels behave similarly to WT. The results also suggest that p.G190S does not exert dominant-negative effects on other mutated ClC-1 subunits. Moreover, we performed a RT-PCR quantification of selected ion channels transcripts in muscle biopsies of two patients. The results suggest gene expression alteration of sodium and potassium channel subunits in myotonic muscles; if confirmed, such analysis may pave the way toward a better understanding of disease phenotype and a possible identification of new therapeutic options.
Project description:Recent evidence shows that the Huntington's disease (HD) extends beyond the nervous system to other sites, including the cardiovascular system. Further, the cardiovascular pathology pre-dates neurological decline, however the mechanisms involved remain unclear. We investigated in the R6/2 mouse model of HD nitric oxide (NO) dependent and independent endothelial mechanisms. Femoral artery reactivity was determined by wire myography in wild type (WT) and R6/2 mice at 12 and 16 weeks of adulthood. WT mice showed increased endothelial relaxation between 12 and 16 weeks (Rmax: 72 ± 7% vs. 97 ± 13%, P < 0.05). In contrast, R6/2 mice showed enhanced endothelial relaxation already by 12 weeks (Rmax at 12w: 72 ± 7% vs. 94 ± 5%, WT vs. R6/2, P < 0.05) that declined by 16 weeks compared with WT mice (Rmax at 16w: 97 ± 13% vs. 68 ± 7%, WT vs. R6/2, P < 0.05). In WT mice, the increase in femoral relaxation between 12 and 16 weeks was due to enhanced NO dependent mechanisms. By 16 weeks of adult age, the R6/2 mouse developed overt endothelial dysfunction due to an inability to increase NO dependent vasodilation. The data add to the growing literature of non-neural manifestations of HD and implicate NO depletion as a key mechanism underlying the HD pathophysiology in the peripheral vasculature.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a genetic neurological disorder that causes severe and progressive motor, cognitive, psychiatric, and metabolic symptoms. There is a robust, significant elevation in circulating levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in HD patients; however, the causes and consequences of this elevation are largely uncharacterized. Here, we evaluated whether elevated levels of corticosterone, the rodent homolog of cortisol, contributed to the development of symptomology in transgenic HD mice. Wild-type (WT) and transgenic R6/2 mice were given either 1) adrenalectomy with WT-level corticosterone replacement (10ng/ml), 2) adrenalectomy with high HD-level corticosterone replacement (60ng/ml), or 3) sham surgery without replacement. R6/2 mice on HD-level replacement showed severe and rapid weight loss (p<0.05) and a shorter latency to death (p<0.01) relative to the HD mice on WT-level replacement. We further evaluated basal and stress-induced levels of circulating corticosterone in R6/2 mice throughout the course of their life. We found that R6/2 transgenic HD mice display a spontaneous elevation in circulating corticosterone levels that became significant at 10weeks of age. Furthermore, we identified significant dysregulation of circadian rhythmicity of corticosterone release measured over a 24h period compared to wild-type controls. Unexpectedly, we found that R6/2 transgenic mice show a blunted corticosterone response to restraint stress, compared to wild-type mice. Together, these data provide further evidence that HPA-axis activity is abnormal in R6/2 mice, and highlight the important role that cortisol plays in HD symptom development. Our findings suggest that cortisol-reducing therapeutics may be of value in improving HD patient quality of life.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Huntington's disease (HD) is a dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disorder that affects cognitive and motor abilities by primarily targeting the striatum and cerebral cortex. HD is caused by a mutation elongating the CAG repeats within the Huntingtin gene, resulting in HTT protein misfolding. Although the genetic cause of HD has been established, the specific susceptibility of neurons within various brain structures has remained elusive. Microglia, which are the brain's resident macrophages, have emerged as important players in neurodegeneration. Nevertheless, few studies have examined their implication in HD. METHODS:To provide novel insights, we investigated the maturation and dysfunction of striatal microglia using the R6/2 mouse model of HD. This transgenic model, which presents with 120+/-5 CAG repeats, displays progressive motor deficits beginning at 6?weeks of age, with full incapacitation by 13?weeks. We studied microglial morphology, phagocytic capacity, and synaptic contacts in the striatum of R6/2 versus wild-type (WT) littermates at 3, 10, and 13?weeks of age, using a combination of light and transmission electron microscopy. We also reconstructed dendrites and determined synaptic density within the striatum of R6/2 and WT littermates, at nanoscale resolution using focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy. RESULTS:At 3?weeks of age, prior to any known motor deficits, microglia in R6/2 animals displayed a more mature morphological phenotype than WT animals. Microglia from R6/2 mice across all ages also demonstrated increased phagocytosis, as revealed by light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Furthermore, microglial processes from 10-week-old R6/2 mice made fewer contacts with synaptic structures than microglial processes in 3-week-old R6/2 mice and age-matched WT littermates. Synaptic density was not affected by genotype at 3?weeks of age but increased with maturation in WT mice. The location of synapses was lastly modified in R6/2 mice compared with WT controls, from targeting dendritic spines to dendritic trunks at both 3 and 10?weeks of age. CONCLUSIONS:These findings suggest that microglia may play an intimate role in synaptic alteration and loss during HD pathogenesis.
Project description:Antagonist pleiotropy, where a gene exerts a beneficial effect at early stages and a deleterious effect later on in an animal's life, may explain the evolutionary persistence of devastating genetic diseases such as Huntington's disease (HD). To date, however, there is little direct experimental evidence to support this theory. Here, we studied a transgenic mouse carrying the HD mutation with a repeat of 50 CAGs (R6/2_50) that is within the pathological range of repeats causing adult-onset disease in humans. R6/2_50 mice develop characteristic HD brain aggregate pathology, with aggregates appearing predominantly in the striatum and cortex. However, they show few signs of disease in their lifetime. On the contrary, R6/2_50 mice appear to benefit from carrying the mutation. They have extended lifespans compared to wildtype (WT) mice, and male mice show enhanced fecundity. Furthermore, R6/2_50 mice outperform WT mice on the rotarod and show equal or better performance in the two choice discrimination task than WT mice. This novel mouse line provides direct experimental evidence that, although the HD mutation causes a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, there may be premorbid benefits of carrying the mutation.
Project description:Accumulating evidence suggests altered energy metabolism as a key feature in Huntington's disease (HD) pathology. Hyper-catabolism, including weight loss and muscle atrophy, is seen in HD patients and HD mouse models. Metabolic hormones are key players, not only in energy metabolism, but also in neurodegenerative processes. Ghrelin, a gut peptide-hormone, plays an important role in regulating energy metabolism, stimulating appetite, and affects brain function and increases neuronal survival. The R6/2 mouse model of HD has previously been shown to exhibit progressive weight loss, dysregulated glucose metabolism, skeletal muscle atrophy and altered body composition. In this study, we targeted energy metabolism in R6/2 mice using ghrelin administration, with the primary aim to delay weight loss and reduce muscle atrophy. We also evaluated glucose metabolism and behaviour. We here demonstrate that ghrelin administration (subcutaneous 150??g/kg daily injections) for 4 weeks, reversed the catabolic gene expression profile (increased expression of Caspase 8, Traf-5 and Creb1) seen in R6/2 mouse skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle morphology was also improved with ghrelin, and importantly, ghrelin administration normalized behavioural deficits in R6/2 mice. Taken together, our findings encourage further studies targeting metabolism in HD.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Huntington Disease (HD) is a progressive neurological disorder, with pathological manifestations in brain areas and in periphery caused by the ubiquitous expression of mutant Huntingtin protein. Transcriptional dysregulation is considered a key molecular mechanism responsible of HD pathogenesis but, although numerous studies investigated mRNA alterations in HD, so far none evaluated a whole gene expression profile in blood of R6/2 mouse model. FINDINGS: To discover novel pathogenic mechanisms and potential peripheral biomarkers useful to monitor disease progression or drug efficacy, a microarray study was performed in blood of R6/2 at manifest stage and wild type littermate mice. This approach allowed to propose new peripheral molecular processes involved in HD and to suggest different panels of candidate biomarkers. Among the discovered deregulated processes, we focused on specific ones: complement and coagulation cascades, PPAR signaling, cardiac muscle contraction, and dilated cardiomyopathy pathways. Selected genes derived from these pathways were additionally investigated in other accessible tissues to validate these matrices as source of biomarkers, and in brain, to link central and peripheral disease manifestations. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings validated the skeletal muscle as suitable source to investigate peripheral transcriptional alterations in HD and supported the hypothesis that immunological alteration may contribute to neurological degeneration. Moreover, the identification of altered signaling in mouse blood enforce R6/2 transgenic mouse as a powerful HD model while suggesting novel disease biomarkers for pre-clinical investigation.