Molecular insights into cortico-striatal miscommunications in Huntington's disease.
ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD), a dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disease, is defined by its genetic cause, a CAG-repeat expansion in the HTT gene, its motor and psychiatric symptomology and primary loss of striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs). However, the molecular mechanisms from genetic lesion to disease phenotype remain largely unclear. Mouse models of HD have been created that exhibit phenotypes partially recapitulating those in the patient, and specifically, cortico-striatal disconnectivity appears to be a shared pathogenic event shared by HD mouse models and patients. Molecular studies have begun to unveil converging molecular and cellular pathogenic mechanisms that may account for cortico-striatal miscommunication in various HD mouse models. Systems biological approaches help to illuminate synaptic molecular networks as a nexus for HD cortio-striatal pathogenesis, and may offer new candidate targets to modify the disease.
Project description:Huntington disease (HD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the huntingtin gene. Disrupted cortico-striatal transmission is an early event that contributes to neuronal spine and synapse dysfunction primarily in striatal medium spiny neurons, the most vulnerable cell type in the disease, but also in neurons of other brain regions including the cortex. Although striatal and cortical neurons eventually degenerate, these synaptic and circuit changes may underlie some of the earliest motor, cognitive, and psychiatric symptoms. Moreover, synaptic dysfunction and spine loss are hypothesized to be therapeutically reversible before neuronal death occurs, and restoration of normal synaptic function may delay neurodegeneration. One of the earliest synaptic alterations to occur in HD mouse models is enhanced striatal extrasynaptic NMDA receptor expression and activity. This activity is mediated primarily through GluN2B subunit-containing receptors and is associated with increased activation of cell death pathways, inhibition of survival signaling, and greater susceptibility to excitotoxicity. Death-associated protein kinase 1 (DAPK1) is a pro-apoptotic kinase highly expressed in neurons during development. In the adult brain, DAPK1 becomes re-activated and recruited to extrasynaptic NMDAR complexes during neuronal death, where it phosphorylates GluN2B at S1303, amplifying toxic receptor function. Approaches to reduce DAPK1 activity have demonstrated benefit in animal models of stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and chronic stress, indicating that DAPK1 may be a novel target for neuroprotection. Here, we demonstrate that dysregulation of DAPK1 occurs early in the YAC128 HD mouse model, and contributes to elevated extrasynaptic GluN2B S1303 phosphorylation. Inhibition of DAPK1 normalizes extrasynaptic GluN2B phosphorylation and surface expression, and completely prevents YAC128 striatal spine loss in cortico-striatal co-culture, thus validating DAPK1 as a potential target for synaptic protection in HD and warranting further development of DAPK1-targeted therapies for neurodegeneration.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurological disorder characterized by motor disturbances. HD pathology is most prominent in the striatum, the central hub of the basal ganglia. The cerebral cortex is the main striatal afferent, and progressive cortico-striatal disconnection characterizes HD. We mapped striatal network dysfunction in HD mice to ultimately modulate the activity of a specific cortico-striatal circuit to ameliorate motor symptoms and recover synaptic plasticity. Multimodal MRI in vivo indicates cortico-striatal and thalamo-striatal functional network deficits and reduced glutamate/glutamine ratio in the striatum of HD mice. Moreover, optogenetically-induced glutamate release from M2 cortex terminals in the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) was undetectable in HD mice and striatal neurons show blunted electrophysiological responses. Remarkably, repeated M2-DLS optogenetic stimulation normalized motor behavior in HD mice and evoked a sustained increase of synaptic plasticity. Overall, these results reveal that selective stimulation of the M2-DLS pathway can become an effective therapeutic strategy in HD.
Project description:Histone deacetylase (HDAC) 4 is a transcriptional repressor that contains a glutamine-rich domain. We hypothesised that it may be involved in the molecular pathogenesis of Huntington's disease (HD), a protein-folding neurodegenerative disorder caused by an aggregation-prone polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin protein. We found that HDAC4 associates with huntingtin in a polyglutamine-length-dependent manner and co-localises with cytoplasmic inclusions. We show that HDAC4 reduction delayed cytoplasmic aggregate formation, restored Bdnf transcript levels, and rescued neuronal and cortico-striatal synaptic function in HD mouse models. This was accompanied by an improvement in motor coordination, neurological phenotypes, and increased lifespan. Surprisingly, HDAC4 reduction had no effect on global transcriptional dysfunction and did not modulate nuclear huntingtin aggregation. Our results define a crucial role for the cytoplasmic aggregation process in the molecular pathology of HD. HDAC4 reduction presents a novel strategy for targeting huntingtin aggregation, which may be amenable to small-molecule therapeutics.
Project description:Trans-neuronal propagation of mutant huntingtin protein contributes to the organised spread of cortico-striatal degeneration and disconnection in Huntington's disease (HD). We investigated whether the network diffusion model, which models transneuronal spread as diffusion of pathological proteins via the brain connectome, can determine the severity of neural degeneration and disconnection in HD. We used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and high-angular resolution diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) data from symptomatic Huntington's disease (HD) (N = 26) and age-matched healthy controls (N = 26) to measure neural degeneration and disconnection in HD. The network diffusion model was used to test whether disease spread, via the human brain connectome, is a viable mechanism to explain the distribution of pathology across the brain. We found that an eigenmode identified in the healthy human brain connectome Laplacian matrix, accurately predicts the cortico-striatal spatial pattern of degeneration in HD. Furthermore, the spread of neural degeneration from sub-cortical brain regions, including the accumbens and thalamus, generates a spatial pattern which represents the typical neurodegenerative characteristics in HD. The white matter connections connecting the nodes with the highest amount of disease factors, when diffusion based disease spread is initiated from the striatum, were found to be most vulnerable to disconnection in HD. These findings suggest that trans-neuronal diffusion of mutant huntingtin protein across the human brain connectome may explain the pattern of gray matter degeneration and white matter disconnection that are hallmarks of HD.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Network alterations underlying neurodegenerative diseases often precede symptoms and functional deficits. Thus, their early identification is central for improved prognosis. In Huntington's disease (HD), the cortico-striatal networks, involved in motor function processing, are the most compromised neural substrate. However, whether the network alterations are intrinsic of the striatum or the cortex is not fully understood. RESULTS:In order to identify early HD neural deficits, we characterized neuronal ensemble calcium activity and network topology of HD striatal and cortical cultures. We used large-scale calcium imaging combined with activity-based network inference analysis. We extracted collective activity events and inferred the topology of the neuronal network in cortical and striatal primary cultures from wild-type and R6/1 mouse model of HD. Striatal, but not cortical, HD networks displayed lower activity and a lessened ability to integrate information. GABAA receptor blockade in healthy and HD striatal cultures generated similar coordinated ensemble activity and network topology, highlighting that the excitatory component of striatal system is spared in HD. Conversely, NMDA receptor activation increased individual neuronal activity while coordinated activity became highly variable and undefined. Interestingly, by boosting NMDA activity, we rectified striatal HD network alterations. CONCLUSIONS:Overall, our integrative approach highlights striatal defective network integration capacity as a major contributor of basal ganglia dysfunction in HD and suggests that increased excitatory drive may serve as a potential intervention. In addition, our work provides a valuable tool to evaluate in vitro network recovery after treatment intervention in basal ganglia disorders.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a complex neuropsychiatric phenotype. In a recent meta-analysis we identified core regions of consistent neurodegeneration in premanifest HD in the striatum and middle occipital gyrus (MOG). For early manifest HD convergent evidence of atrophy was most prominent in the striatum, motor cortex (M1) and inferior frontal junction (IFJ). The aim of the present study was to functionally characterize this topography of brain atrophy and to investigate differential connectivity patterns formed by consistent cortico-striatal atrophy regions in HD. Using areas of striatal and cortical atrophy at different disease stages as seeds, we performed task-free resting-state and task-based meta-analytic connectivity modeling (MACM). MACM utilizes the large data source of the BrainMap database and identifies significant areas of above-chance co-activation with the seed-region via the activation-likelihood-estimation approach. In order to delineate functional networks formed by cortical as well as striatal atrophy regions we computed the conjunction between the co-activation profiles of striatal and cortical seeds in the premanifest and manifest stages of HD, respectively. Functional characterization of the seeds was obtained using the behavioral meta-data of BrainMap. Cortico-striatal atrophy seeds of the premanifest stage of HD showed common co-activation with a rather cognitive network including the striatum, anterior insula, lateral prefrontal, premotor, supplementary motor and parietal regions. A similar but more pronounced co-activation pattern, additionally including the medial prefrontal cortex and thalamic nuclei was found with striatal and IFJ seeds at the manifest HD stage. The striatum and M1 were functionally connected mainly to premotor and sensorimotor areas, posterior insula, putamen and thalamus. Behavioral characterization of the seeds confirmed that experiments activating the MOG or IFJ in conjunction with the striatum were associated with cognitive functions, while the network formed by M1 and the striatum was driven by motor-related tasks. Thus, based on morphological changes in HD, we identified functionally distinct cortico-striatal networks resembling a cognitive and motor loop, which may be prone to early disruptions in different stages of the disease and underlie HD-related cognitive and motor symptom profiles. Our findings provide an important link between morphometrically defined seed-regions and corresponding functional circuits highlighting the functional and ensuing clinical relevance of structural damage in HD.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by a toxic gain-of-function associated with the expression of the mutant huntingtin (htt) protein. Therefore, the use of RNA interference to inhibit Htt expression could represent a disease-modifying therapy. The potential of two recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors (AAV), AAV1 and AAV2, to transduce the cortico-striatal tissues that are predominantly affected in HD was explored. Green fluorescent protein was used as a reporter in each vector to show that both serotypes were broadly distributed in medium spiny neurons in the striatum and cortico-striatal neurons after infusion into the putamen and caudate nucleus of nonhuman primates (NHP), with AAV1-directed expression being slightly more robust than AAV2-driven expression. This study suggests that both serotypes are capable of targeting neurons that degenerate in HD, and it sets the stage for the advanced preclinical evaluation of an RNAi-based therapy for this disease.
Project description:The mechanisms underlying the selective degeneration of medium spiny neurons (MSNs) in Huntington disease (HD) remain largely unknown. CTIP2, a transcription factor expressed by all MSNs, is implicated in HD pathogenesis because of its interactions with mutant huntingtin. Here, we report a key role for CTIP2 in protein phosphorylation via governing protein kinase A (PKA) signaling in human striatal neurons. Transcriptomic analysis of CTIP2-deficient MSNs implicates CTIP2 target genes at the heart of cAMP-Ca2+ signal integration in the PKA pathway. These findings are further supported by experimental evidence of a substantial reduction in phosphorylation of DARPP32 and GLUR1, two PKA targets in CTIP2-deficient MSNs. Moreover, we show that CTIP2-dependent dysregulation of protein phosphorylation is shared by HD hPSC-derived MSNs and striatal tissues of two HD mouse models. This study therefore establishes an essential role for CTIP2 in human MSN homeostasis and provides mechanistic and potential therapeutic insight into striatal neurodegeneration.
Project description:Huntington's disease (HD) is a devastating, genetic neurodegenerative disease caused by a tri-nucleotide expansion in exon 1 of the huntingtin gene. HD is clinically characterized by chorea, emotional and psychiatric disturbances and cognitive deficits with later symptoms including rigidity and dementia. Pathologically, the cortico-striatal pathway is severely dysfunctional as reflected by striatal and cortical atrophy in late-stage disease. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a neuroprotective, secreted protein that binds with high affinity to the extracellular domain of the tropomyosin-receptor kinase B (TrkB) receptor promoting neuronal cell survival by activating the receptor and down-stream signaling proteins. Reduced cortical BDNF production and transport to the striatum have been implicated in HD pathogenesis; the ability to enhance TrkB signaling using a BDNF mimetic might be beneficial in disease progression, so we explored this as a therapeutic strategy for HD. Using recombinant and native assay formats, we report here the evaluation of TrkB antibodies and a panel of reported small molecule TrkB agonists, and identify the best candidate, from those tested, for in vivo proof of concept studies in transgenic HD models.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Huntington disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG expansion in the huntingtin (HTT) gene, leading to selective and progressive neuronal death predominantly in the striatum. Mutant HTT expression causes dysfunctional cortico-striatal (CS) transmission, loss of CS synapses, and striatal medium spiny neuron (MSN) dendritic spine instability prior to neuronal death. Co-culturing cortical and striatal neurons in vitro promotes the formation of functional CS synapses and is a widely used approach to elucidate pathogenic mechanisms of HD and to validate potential synapto-protective therapies. A number of relevant in vivo synaptic phenotypes from the YAC128 HD mouse model, which expresses full-length transgenic human mutant HTT, are recapitulated in CS co-culture by 21 days in vitro (DIV). However, striatal spine loss, which occurs in HD patients and in vivo animal models, has been observed in YAC128 CS co-culture in some studies but not in others, leading to difficulties in reproducing and interpreting results. Here, we investigated whether differences in the relative proportion of cortical and striatal neurons alter YAC128 synaptic phenotypes in this model. RESULTS:YAC128 MSNs in 1:1 CS co-culture exhibited impaired dendritic length and complexity compared to wild-type, whereas reducing cortical input using a 1:3 CS ratio revealed a dramatic loss of YAC128 MSN dendritic spines. Chimeric experiments determined that this spine instability was primarily cell autonomous, depending largely on mutant HTT expression in striatal neurons. Moreover, we found that spontaneous electrophysiological MSN activity correlated closely with overall dendritic length, with no differences observed between genotypes in 1:3 co-cultures despite significant YAC128 spine loss. Finally, limiting cortical input with a 1:3 CS ratio impaired the basal survival of YAC128 neurons at DIV21, and this was partially selective for dopamine- and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein 32-positive MSNs. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings reconcile previous discordant reports of spine loss in this model, and improve the utility and reliability of the CS co-culture for the development of novel therapeutic strategies for HD.