Correlations of Behavioral Deficits with Brain Pathology Assessed through Longitudinal MRI and Histopathology in the R6/1 Mouse Model of Huntington's Disease

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Abstract

Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by the expansion of a CAG repeat in the huntingtin (HTT) gene. The R6 mouse models of HD express a mutant version of exon 1 HTT and typically develop motor and cognitive impairments, a widespread huntingtin (HTT) aggregate pathology and brain atrophy. Unlike the more commonly used R6/2 mouse line, R6/1 mice have fewer CAG repeats and, subsequently, a less rapid pathological decline. Compared to the R6/2 line, fewer descriptions of the progressive pathologies exhibited by R6/1 mice exist. The association between the molecular and cellular neuropathology with brain atrophy, and with the development of behavioral phenotypes remains poorly understood in many models of HD. In attempt to link these factors in the R6/1 mouse line, we have performed detailed assessments of behavior and of regional brain abnormalities determined through longitudinal, in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as well as an end-stage, ex vivo MRI study and histological assessment. We found progressive decline in both motor and non-motor related behavioral tasks in R6/1 mice, first evident at 11 weeks of age. Regional brain volumes were generally unaffected at 9 weeks, but by 17 weeks there was significant grey matter atrophy. This age-related brain volume loss was validated using a more precise, semi-automated Tensor Based morphometry assessment. As well as these clear progressive phenotypes, mutant HTT (mHTT) protein, the hallmark of HD molecular pathology, was widely distributed throughout the R6/1 brain and was accompanied by neuronal loss. Despite these seemingly concomitant, robust pathological phenotypes, there appeared to be little correlation between the three main outcome measures: behavioral performance, MRI-detected brain atrophy and histopathology. In conclusion, R6/1 mice exhibit many features of HD, but the underlying mechanisms driving these clear behavioral disturbances and the brain volume loss, still remain unclear.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere84726
Pages (from-to)N/A
Number of pages24
JournalPL o S One
Volume8
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2013

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