Antagonistic pleiotropy in mice carrying a CAG repeat expansion in the range causing Huntington's disease.
ABSTRACT: 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:<h4>Background</h4>Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by the expansion of the HTT CAG repeat. Affected individuals inherit ≥36 repeats and longer alleles cause earlier onset, greater disease severity and faster disease progression. The HTT CAG repeat is genetically unstable in the soma in a process that preferentially generates somatic expansions, the proportion of which is associated with disease onset, severity and progression. Somatic mosaicism of the HTT CAG repeat has traditionally been assessed by semi-quantitative PCR-electrophoresis approaches that have limitations (e.g., no information about sequence variants). Genotyping-by-sequencing could allow for some of these limitations to be overcome.<h4>Objective</h4>To investigate the utility of PCR sequencing to genotype large (>50 CAGs) HD alleles and to quantify the associated somatic mosaicism.<h4>Methods</h4>We have applied MiSeq and PacBio sequencing to PCR products of the HTT CAG repeat in transgenic R6/2 mice carrying ∼55, ∼110, ∼255 and ∼470 CAGs. For each of these alleles, we compared the repeat length distributions generated for different tissues at two ages.<h4>Results</h4>We were able to sequence the CAG repeat full length in all samples. However, the repeat length distributions for samples with ∼470 CAGs were biased towards shorter repeat lengths.<h4>Conclusion</h4>PCR sequencing can be used to sequence all the HD alleles considered, but this approach cannot be used to estimate modal allele size or quantify somatic expansions for alleles ⪢250 CAGs. We review the limitations of PCR sequencing and alternative approaches that may allow the quantification of somatic contractions and very large somatic expansions.
Project description:R6/2 transgenic mice with expanded CAG repeats (>300) have a surprisingly prolonged disease progression and longer lifespan than prototypical parent R6/2 mice (carrying 150 CAGs); however, the mechanism of this phenotype amelioration is unknown. We compared gene expression profiles in the striatum of R6/2 transgenic mice carrying ~300 CAG repeats (R6/2(Q300) transgenic mice) to those carrying ~150 CAG repeats (R6/2(Q150) transgenic mice) and littermate wildtype controls in order to identify genes that may play determinant roles in the time course of phenotypic expression in these mice. Of the top genes showing concordant expression changes in the striatum of both R6/2 lines, 85% were decreased in expression, while discordant expression changes were observed mostly for genes upregulated in R6/2(Q300) transgenic mice. Upregulated genes in the R6/2(Q300) mice were associated with the ubiquitin ligase complex, cell adhesion, protein folding, and establishment of protein localization. We qPCR-validated increases in expression of genes related to the latter category, including Lrsam1, Erp29, Nasp, Tap1, Rab9b, and Pfdn5 in R6/2(Q300) mice, changes that were not observed in R6/2 mice with shorter CAG repeats, even in late stages (i.e., 12 weeks of age). We further tested Lrsam1 and Erp29, the two genes showing the greatest upregulation in R6/2(Q300) transgenic mice, for potential neuroprotective effects in primary striatal cultures overexpressing a mutated human huntingtin (htt) fragment. Overexpression of Lrsam1 prevented the loss of NeuN-positive cell bodies in htt171-82Q cultures, concomitant with a reduction of nuclear htt aggregates. Erp29 showed no significant effects in this model. This is consistent with the distinct pattern of htt inclusion localization observed in R6/2(Q300) transgenic mice, in which smaller cytoplasmic inclusions represent the major form of insoluble htt in the cell, as opposed to large nuclear inclusions observed in R6/2(Q150) transgenic mice. We suggest that the prolonged onset and disease course observed in R6/2 mice with greatly expanded CAG repeats might result from differential upregulation of genes related to protein localization and clearance. Such genes may represent novel therapeutic avenues to decrease htt aggregate toxicity and cell death in HD patients, with Lrsam1 being a promising, novel candidate disease modifier.
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:The expansion of CAG/CTG repeats is responsible for many diseases, including Huntington's disease (HD) and myotonic dystrophy 1. CAG/CTG expansions are unstable in selective somatic tissues, which accelerates disease progression. The mechanisms underlying repeat instability are complex, and it remains unclear whether chromatin structure and/or transcription contribute to somatic CAG/CTG instability in vivo. To address these issues, we investigated the relationship between CAG instability, chromatin structure, and transcription at the HD locus using the R6/1 and R6/2 HD transgenic mouse lines. These mice express a similar transgene, albeit integrated at a different site, and recapitulate HD tissue-specific instability. We show that instability rates are increased in R6/2 tissues as compared to R6/1 matched-samples. High transgene expression levels and chromatin accessibility correlated with the increased CAG instability of R6/2 mice. Transgene mRNA and H3K4 trimethylation at the HD locus were increased, whereas H3K9 dimethylation was reduced in R6/2 tissues relative to R6/1 matched-tissues. However, the levels of transgene expression and these specific histone marks were similar in the striatum and cerebellum, two tissues showing very different CAG instability levels, irrespective of mouse line. Interestingly, the levels of elongating RNA Pol II at the HD locus, but not the initiating form of RNA Pol II, were tissue-specific and correlated with CAG instability levels. Similarly, H3K36 trimethylation, a mark associated with transcription elongation, was specifically increased at the HD locus in the striatum and not in the cerebellum. Together, our data support the view that transcription modulates somatic CAG instability in vivo. More specifically, our results suggest for the first time that transcription elongation is regulated in a tissue-dependent manner, contributing to tissue-selective CAG instability.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>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.<h4>Methods</h4>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.<h4>Results</h4>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.<h4>Conclusions</h4>These findings suggest that microglia may play an intimate role in synaptic alteration and loss during HD pathogenesis.
Project description:Whereas Huntington's disease (HD) is unequivocally a neurological disorder, a critical mass of emerging studies highlights the occurrence of peripheral pathology like cardiovascular defects in both animal models and humans. The overt impairment in cardiac function is normally expected to be associated with peripheral vascular dysfunction, however whether this assumption is reasonable or not in HD is still unknown. In this study we functionally characterized the vascular system in R6/2 mouse model (line 160 CAG), which recapitulates several features of human pathology including cardiac disease. Vascular reactivity in different arterial districts was determined by wire myography in symptomatic R6/2 mice and age-matched wild type (WT) littermates. Disease stage was assessed by using well-validated behavioural tests like rotarod and horizontal ladder task. Surprisingly, no signs of vascular dysfunction were detectable in symptomatic mice and no link with motor phenotype was found.
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:Huntington's disease is caused by the expansion of a CAG repeat within exon 1 of the HTT gene, which is unstable, leading to further expansion, the extent of which is brain region and peripheral tissue specific. The identification of DNA repair genes as genetic modifiers of Huntington's disease, that were known to abrogate somatic instability in Huntington's disease mouse models, demonstrated that somatic CAG expansion is central to disease pathogenesis, and that the CAG repeat threshold for pathogenesis in specific brain cells might not be known. We have previously shown that the HTT gene is incompletely spliced generating a small transcript that encodes the highly pathogenic exon 1 HTT protein. The longer the CAG repeat, the more of this toxic fragment is generated, providing a pathogenic consequence for somatic expansion. Here, we have used the R6/2 mouse model to investigate the molecular and behavioural consequences of expressing exon 1 HTT with 90 CAGs, a mutation that causes juvenile Huntington's disease, compared to R6/2 mice carrying ?200 CAGs, a repeat expansion of a size rarely found in Huntington's disease patient's blood, but which has been detected in post-mortem brains as a consequence of somatic CAG repeat expansion. We show that nuclear aggregation occurred earlier in R6/2(CAG)90 mice and that this correlated with the onset of transcriptional dysregulation. Whereas in R6/2(CAG)200 mice, cytoplasmic aggregates accumulated rapidly and closely tracked with the progression of behavioural phenotypes and with end-stage disease. We find that aggregate species formed in the R6/2(CAG)90 brains have different properties to those in the R6/2(CAG)200 mice. Within the nucleus, they retain a diffuse punctate appearance throughout the course of the disease, can be partially solubilized by detergents and have a greater seeding potential in young mice. In contrast, aggregates from R6/2(CAG)200 brains polymerize into larger structures that appear as inclusion bodies. These data emphasize that a subcellular analysis, using multiple complementary approaches, must be undertaken in order to draw any conclusions about the relationship between HTT aggregation and the onset and progression of disease phenotypes.
Project description:Purpose: Transcriptome profiling (RNA-seq) to microarray to evaluate transcriptional changes in the heart of HD mouse models Methods: Heart mRNA profiles of 4-weeks-old wild-type (WT) and R6/2 transgenic; 15-weeks-old WT and R6/2 transgenic mice; 8-month-old WT and HdhQ150 knock-in mice; 22-month-old WT and HdhQ150 knock-in mice were generated by deep sequencing, in triplicate, using Illumina Hi-seq 2000. Conclusions: Our study showed that there is no major transcriptional deregulation in the heart of mouse models of HD. Heart mRNA profiles of 4-weeks-old wild-type (WT) and R6/2 transgenic; 15-weeks-old WT and R6/2 transgenic mice; 8-month-old WT and HdhQ150 knock-in mice; 22-month-old WT and HdhQ150 knock-in mice were generated by deep sequencing, in triplicate, using Illumina Hi-seq 2000.