Age of onset in Huntington disease: sex specific influence of apolipoprotein E genotype and normal CAG repeat length. (1/1997)

Age of onset (AO) of Huntington disease (HD) is known to be correlated with the length of an expanded CAG repeat in the HD gene. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype, in turn, is known to influence AO in Alzheimer disease, rendering the APOE gene a likely candidate to affect AO in other neurological diseases too. We therefore determined APOE genotype and normal CAG repeat length in the HD gene for 138 HD patients who were previously analysed with respect to CAG repeat length. Genotyping for APOE was performed blind to clinical information. In addition to highlighting the effect of the normal repeat length upon AO in maternally inherited HD and in male patients, we show that the APOE epsilon2epsilon3 genotype is associated with significantly earlier AO in males than in females. Such a sex difference in AO was not apparent for any of the other APOE genotypes. Our findings suggest that subtle differences in the course of the neurodegeneration in HD may allow interacting genes to exert gender specific effects upon AO.  (+info)

Mitochondrial involvement in Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, hereditary spastic paraplegia and Friedreich's ataxia. (2/1997)

Respiratory chain dysfunction has been identified in several neurodegenerative disorders. In Friedreich's ataxia (FA) and Huntington's disease (HD), where the respective mutations are in nuclear genes encoding non-respiratory chain mitochondrial proteins, the defects in oxidative phosphorylation are clearly secondary. In Parkinson's disease (PD) the situation is less clear, with some evidence for a primary role of mitochondrial DNA in at least a proportion of patients. The pattern of the respiratory chain defect may provide some clue to its cause; in PD there appears to be a selective complex I deficiency; in HD and FA the deficiencies are most severe in complex II/III with a less severe defect in complex IV. Aconitase activity in HD and FA is severely decreased in brain and muscle, respectively, but appears to be normal in PD brain. Free radical generation is thought to be of importance in both HD and FA, via excitotoxicity in HD and abnormal iron handling in FA. The oxidative damage observed in PD may be secondary to the mitochondrial defect. Whatever the cause(s) and sequence of events, respiratory chain deficiencies appear to play an important role in the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration. The mitochondrial abnormalities induced may converge on the function of the mitochondrion in apoptosis. This mode of cell death is thought to play an important role in neurodegenerative diseases and it is tempting to speculate that the observed mitochondrial defects in PD, HD and FA result directly in apoptotic cell death, or in the lowering of a cell's threshold to undergo apoptosis. Clarifying the role of mitochondria in pathogenesis may provide opportunities for the development of treatments designed to reverse or prevent neurodegeneration.  (+info)

Mice transgenic for an expanded CAG repeat in the Huntington's disease gene develop diabetes. (3/1997)

The autosomal dominant neurological syndrome of Huntington's disease has been modeled in transgenic mice by the expression of a portion of the human huntingtin gene together with 140 CAG repeats (the R6/2 strain). The mice develop progressive chorea with onset at approximately 9 weeks of age and with death at approximately 13 weeks. Associated symptoms include weight loss and polyuria in the absence of eating or drinking deficits. We have found that these mice have insulin-responsive diabetes. Fasting glucose was 211 + 19 mg/dl in R6/2 mice compared with 93 + 5 mg/dl in C57/B6 controls (n = 12, both groups; P < 0.01). Administration of insulin intraperitoneally led to a reduction in blood glucose. At 12.5 weeks, animals were killed and pancreas weighed and analyzed for insulin and glucagon. Pancreatic mass in R6/2 mice was the same as controls, and islets appeared normal in morphology without lymphocytic infiltration. Immunohistochemical staining showed dramatic reductions in glucagon in the alpha-cells and in insulin in the beta-cells. Direct tissue assays showed glucagon and insulin content were reduced to only 10 and 15% of controls, respectively. Diabetes has been reported as being more common in Huntington's disease and other triplet repeat disorders. The R6/2 mouse should prove useful for elucidating the mechanism of diabetes in these genetic diseases.  (+info)

Nuclear and neuropil aggregates in Huntington's disease: relationship to neuropathology. (4/1997)

The data we report in this study concern the types, location, numbers, forms, and composition of microscopic huntingtin aggregates in brain tissues from humans with different grades of Huntington's disease (HD). We have developed a fusion protein antibody against the first 256 amino acids that preferentially recognizes aggregated huntingtin and labels many more aggregates in neuronal nuclei, perikarya, and processes in human brain than have been described previously. Using this antibody and human brain tissue ranging from presymptomatic to grade 4, we have compared the numbers and locations of nuclear and neuropil aggregates with the known patterns of neuronal death in HD. We show that neuropil aggregates are much more common than nuclear aggregates and can be present in large numbers before the onset of clinical symptoms. There are also many more aggregates in cortex than in striatum, where they are actually uncommon. Although the striatum is the most affected region in HD, only 1-4% of striatal neurons in all grades of HD have nuclear aggregates. Neuropil aggregates, which we have identified by electron microscopy to occur in dendrites and dendritic spines, could play a role in the known dendritic pathology that occurs in HD. Aggregates increase in size in advanced grades, suggesting that they may persist in neurons that are more likely to survive. Ubiquitination is apparent in only a subset of aggregates, suggesting that ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis of aggregates may be late or variable.  (+info)

Characterization of progressive motor deficits in mice transgenic for the human Huntington's disease mutation. (5/1997)

Transgenic mice expressing exon 1 of the human Huntington's disease (HD) gene carrying a 141-157 CAG repeat (line R6/2) develop a progressive neurological phenotype with motor symptoms resembling those seen in HD. We have characterized the motor deficits in R6/2 mice using a battery of behavioral tests selected to measure motor aspects of swimming, fore- and hindlimb coordination, balance, and sensorimotor gating [swimming tank, rotarod, raised beam, fore- and hindpaw footprinting, and acoustic startle/prepulse inhibition (PPI)]. Behavioral testing was performed on female hemizygotic R6/2 transgenic mice (n = 9) and female wild-type littermates (n = 22) between 5 and 14 weeks of age. Transgenic mice did not show an overt behavioral phenotype until around 8 weeks of age. However, as early as 5-6 weeks of age they had significant difficulty swimming, traversing the narrowest square (5 mm) raised beam, and maintaining balance on the rotarod at rotation speeds of 33-44 rpm. Furthermore, they showed significant impairment in prepulse inhibition (an impairment also seen in patients with HD). Between 8 and 15 weeks, R6/2 transgenic mice showed a progressive deterioration in performance on all of the motor tests. Thus R6/2 mice show measurable deficits in motor behavior that begin subtly and increase progressively until death. Our data support the use of R6/2 mice as a model of HD and indicate that they may be useful for evaluating therapeutic strategies for HD, particularly those aimed at reducing the severity of motor symptoms or slowing the course of the disease.  (+info)

mRNAs encoding a von Ebner's-like protein and the Huntington disease protein are induced in rat male germ cells by Sertoli cells. (6/1997)

The success of spermatogenesis is dependent upon closely coordinated interactions between Sertoli cells and germ cells. To identify specific molecules that mediate interactions between somatic cells and germ cells in the rat testis, Sertoli cell-germ cell co-cultures and mRNA differential display were used. Two cDNAs, clone 1 (660 nucleotides) and clone 2 (390 nucleotides) were up-regulated when Sertoli cells were co-cultured with pachytene spermatocytes or round spermatids. Northern blot analyses confirmed the differential display expression patterns. Sequence analyses indicated that clone 1 was similar to a von Ebner's gland protein (87% at the nucleotide level and 80% at the amino acid level) and clone 2 was identical to a region of the Huntington disease protein. The von Ebner's-like protein mRNA was induced after 4 h of co-culture, while the Huntington disease protein required 18 h of co-culture for expression. The von Ebner's-like protein was induced in germ cells by a secreted Sertoli cell factor(s) smaller than 10 kDa that is sensitive to freezing and thawing or boiling. The Huntington disease protein was induced in germ cells by a Sertoli cell secreted factor(s) larger than 10 kDa which survives freezing and thawing, but is inactivated by boiling.  (+info)

A Huntington's disease CAG expansion at the murine Hdh locus is unstable and associated with behavioural abnormalities in mice. (7/1997)

Huntington's disease (HD) is a dominant disorder characterized by premature and progressive neurodegeneration. In order to generate an accurate model of the disease, we introduced an HD-like mutation (an extended stretch of 72-80 CAG repeats) into the endogenous mouse Hdh gene. Analysis of the mutation in vivo reveals significant levels of germline instability, with expansions, contractions and sex-of-origin effects in evidence. Mice expressing full-length mutant protein display abnormal social behaviour in the absence of acute neurodegeneration. Given that psychiatric changes, including irritability and aggression, are common findings in HD patients, our data are consistent with the hypothesis that some clinical features of HD may be caused by pathological processes that precede gross neuronal cell death. This implies that effective treatment of HD may require an understanding and amelioration of these dysfunctional processes, rather than simply preventing the premature death of neurons in the brain. These mice should facilitate the investigation of the molecular mechanisms that underpin the pathway from genotype to phenotype in HD.  (+info)

Formation of polyglutamine inclusions in non-CNS tissue. (8/1997)

Huntington's disease (HD) is one of a class of inherited progressive neurodegenerative disorders that are caused by a CAG/polyglutamine repeat expansion. We have previously generated mice that are transgenic for exon 1 of the HD gene carrying highly expanded CAG repeats which develop a progressive movement disorder and weight loss with similarities to HD. Neuronal inclusions composed of the exon 1 protein and ubiquitin are present in specific brain regions prior to onset of the phenotype, which in turn occurs long before specific neurodegeneration can be detected. In this report we have extended the search for polyglutamine inclusions to non-neuronal tissues. Outside the central nervous system (CNS), inclusions were identified in a variety of post-mitotic cells. This is consistent with a concentration-dependent nucleation and aggregation model of inclusion formation and indicates that brain-specific factors are not necessary for this process. To possibly gain insights into the wasting that is observed in the human disease, we have conducted a detailed analysis of the timing and progression of inclusion formation in skeletal muscle and an investigation into the cause of the severe muscle atrophy that occurs in the mouse model. The formation of inclusions in non-CNS tissues will be particularly useful with respect to in vivo monitoring of pharmaceutical agents selected for their ability to prevent polyglutamine aggregation in vitro, without the requirement that the agent can cross the blood-brain barrier in the first instance.  (+info)