Blast related traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been a major cause of injury in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A striking feature of the mild TBI (mTBI) cases has been the prominent association with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, because of the overlapping symptoms, distinction between the two disorders has been difficult. We studied a rat model of mTBI in which adult male rats were exposed to repetitive blast injury while under anesthesia. Blast exposure induced a variety of PTSD-related behavioral traits that were present many months after the blast exposure, including increased anxiety, enhanced contextual fear conditioning, and an altered response in a predator scent assay. We also found elevation in the amygdala of the protein stathmin 1, which is known to influence the generation of fear responses. Because the blast overpressure injuries occurred while animals were under general anesthesia, our results suggest that a blast-related mTBI exposure can, in the absence of any psychological stressor, induce PTSD-related traits that are chronic and persistent. These studies have implications for understanding the relationship of PTSD to mTBI in the population of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
blast; PTSD; rat; stathmin 1; TBI
Blast-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been a significant cause of injury in the military operations of Iraq and Afghanistan, affecting as many as 10-20% of returning veterans. However, how blast waves affect the brain is poorly understood. To understand their effects, we analyzed the brains of rats exposed to single or multiple (three) 74.5 kPa blast exposures, conditions that mimic a mild TBI.
Rats were sacrificed 24 hours or between 4 and 10 months after exposure. Intraventricular hemorrhages were commonly observed after 24 hrs. A screen for neuropathology did not reveal any generalized histopathology. However, focal lesions resembling rips or tears in the tissue were found in many brains. These lesions disrupted cortical organization resulting in some cases in unusual tissue realignments. The lesions frequently appeared to follow the lines of penetrating cortical vessels and microhemorrhages were found within some but not most acute lesions.
These lesions likely represent a type of shear injury that is unique to blast trauma. The observation that lesions often appeared to follow penetrating cortical vessels suggests a vascular mechanism of injury and that blood vessels may represent the fault lines along which the most damaging effect of the blast pressure is transmitted.
Blast overpressure injury; Neuropathology; Shear injury; Traumatic brain injury
Mutations in presenilin-1 (PS1) and presenilin-2 (PS2) cause familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). Presenilins influence multiple molecular pathways and are best known for their role in the γ-secretase cleavage of type I transmembrane proteins including the amyloid precursor protein (APP). PS1 and PS2 FAD mutant transgenic mice have been generated using a variety of promoters. PS1-associated FAD mutations have also been knocked into the endogenous mouse gene. PS FAD mutant mice consistently show elevations of Aβ42 with little if any effect on Aβ40. When crossed with plaque forming APP FAD mutant lines, the PS1 FAD mutants cause earlier and more extensive plaque deposition. Although single transgenic PS1 or PS2 mice do not form plaques, they exhibit a number of pathological features including age-related neuronal and synaptic loss as well as vascular pathology. They also exhibit increased susceptibility to excitotoxic injury most likely on the basis of exaggerated calcium release from the endoplasmic reticulum. Electrophysiologically long-term potentiation in the hippocampus is increased in young PS1 FAD mutant mice but this effect appears to be lost with aging. In most studies neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus is also impaired by PS1 FAD mutants. Mice in which PS1 has been conditionally knocked out in adult forebrain on a PS2 null background (PS1/2 cDKO) develop a striking neurodegeneration that mimics AD neuropathology in being associated with neuronal and synaptic loss, astrogliosis and hyperphosphorylation of tau, although it is not accompanied by plaque deposits. The relevance of PS transgenic mice as models of AD is discussed.
Alzheimer’s disease; Familial Alzheimer’s disease; Hippocampal neurogenesis; Presenilin-1; Presenilin-2; Transgenic mice
Blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. How the primary blast wave affects the brain is not well understood. In particular, it is unclear whether blast injures the brain through mechanisms similar to those found in non-blast closed impact injuries (nbTBI). The β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease is elevated acutely following TBI in humans as well as in experimental animal models of nbTBI. We examined levels of brain Aβ following experimental blast injury using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for Aβ 40 and 42. In both rat and mouse models of blast injury, rather than being increased, endogenous rodent brain Aβ levels were decreased acutely following injury. Levels of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) were increased following blast exposure although there was no evidence of axonal pathology based on APP immunohistochemical staining. Unlike the findings in nbTBI animal models, levels of the β-secretase, β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1, and the γ-secretase component presenilin-1 were unchanged following blast exposure. These studies have implications for understanding the nature of blast injury to the brain. They also suggest that strategies aimed at lowering Aβ production may not be effective for treating acute blast injury to the brain.
abeta; amyloid precursor protein; β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1; blast; mouse; presenilin-1; rat; traumatic brain injury
Presenilin-1 (PS1) is a transmembrane protein first discovered because of its association with familial Alzheimer’s disease. Mice with null mutations in PS1 die shortly after birth exhibiting multiple CNS and non-CNS abnormalities. One of the most prominent features in the brains of PS1−/− embryos is a vascular dysgenesis that leads to multiple intracerebral hemorrhages. The molecular and cellular basis for the vascular dysgenesis in PS1−/− mice remains incompletely understood. Because the extracellular matrix plays key roles in vascular development we hypothesized that an abnormal extracellular matrix might be present in endothelial cells lacking PS1 and examined whether the lack of PS1 affects expression of fibronectin a component of the extracellular matrix known to be essential for vascular development.
We report that primary as well as continuously passaged PS1−/− endothelial cells contain more fibronectin than wild type cells and that the excess fibronectin in PS1−/− endothelial cells is incorporated into a fibrillar network. Supporting the in vivo relevance of this observation fibronectin expression was increased in microvascular preparations isolated from E14.5 to E18.5 PS1−/− embryonic brain. Reintroduction of PS1 into PS1−/− endothelial cells led to a progressive decrease in fibronectin levels showing that the increased fibronectin in PS1−/− endothelial cells was due to loss of PS1. Increases in fibronectin protein in PS1−/− endothelial cells could not be explained by increased levels of fibronectin RNA nor based on metabolic labeling studies by increased protein synthesis. Rather we show based on the rate of turnover of exogenously added biotinylated fibronectin that increased fibronectin in PS1−/− endothelial cells results from a slower degradation of the fibronectin fibrillar matrix on the cell surface.
These studies show that PS1 regulates the constitutive turnover of the fibronectin matrix in endothelial cells. These studies provide molecular clues that may help to explain the origin of the vascular dysgenesis that develops in PS1−/− embryonic mice.
Endothelial cells; Extracellular matrix; Fibronectin; Presenilin-1; Vascular development
The Cre-loxP system is widely used for making conditional alterations to the mouse genome. Cre-mediated recombination is frequently monitored using reporter lines in which Cre expression activates a reporter gene driven by a ubiquitous promoter. Given the distinct advantages of fluorescent reporters, we developed a transgenic reporter line, termed IRG, in which DsRed-Express, a red fluorescent protein (RFP) is expressed ubiquitously prior to Cre-mediated recombination and an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) following recombination. Besides their utility for monitoring Cre-mediated recombination, we show that in IRG mice red and green native fluorescence can be imaged simultaneously in thick tissue sections by confocal microscopy allowing for complex reconstructions to be created that are suitable for analysis of neuronal morphologies as well as neurovascular interactions in brain. IRG mice should provide a versatile tool for analyzing complex cellular relationships in both neural and nonneural tissues.†
Cre recombinase; loxP; conditional gene activation; DsRed-express; red fluorescent protein; enhanced green fluorescent protein; transgenic mice
There is interest in defining mouse neurobiological phenotypes useful for studying autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in both forward and reverse genetic approaches. A recurrent focus has been on high-order behavioral analyses, including learning and memory paradigms and social paradigms. However, well-studied mouse models, including for example Fmr1 knockout mice, do not show dramatic deficits in such high-order phenotypes, raising a question as to what constitutes useful phenotypes in ASD models.
To address this, we made use of a list of 112 disease genes etiologically involved in ASD to survey, on a large scale and with unbiased methods as well as expert review, phenotypes associated with a targeted disruption of these genes in mice, using the Mammalian Phenotype Ontology database. In addition, we compared the results with similar analyses for human phenotypes.
We observed four classes of neurobiological phenotypes associated with disruption of a large proportion of ASD genes, including: (1) Changes in brain and neuronal morphology; (2) electrophysiological changes; (3) neurological changes; and (4) higher-order behavioral changes. Alterations in brain and neuronal morphology represent quantitative measures that can be more widely adopted in models of ASD to understand cellular and network changes. Interestingly, the electrophysiological changes differed across different genes, indicating that excitation/inhibition imbalance hypotheses for ASD would either have to be so non-specific as to be not falsifiable, or, if specific, would not be supported by the data. Finally, it was significant that in analyses of both mouse and human databases, many of the behavioral alterations were neurological changes, encompassing sensory alterations, motor abnormalities, and seizures, as opposed to higher-order behavioral changes in learning and memory and social behavior paradigms.
The results indicated that mutations in ASD genes result in defined groups of changes in mouse models and support a broad neurobiological approach to phenotyping rodent models for ASD, with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology, brain and neuronal morphology, and electrophysiology, as well as both neurological and additional behavioral analyses. Analysis of human phenotypes associated with these genes reinforced these conclusions, supporting face validity for these approaches to phenotyping of ASD models. Such phenotyping is consistent with the successes in Fmr1 knockout mice, in which morphological changes recapitulated human findings and electrophysiological deficits resulted in molecular insights that have since led to clinical trials. We propose both broad domains and, based on expert review of more than 50 publications in each of the four neurobiological domains, specific tests to be applied to rodent models of ASD.
Systems biology; mouse behavior; autism; autism spectrum disorders; genetically modified mice; forward genetics; reverse genetics
Myelin abnormalities exist in schizophrenia leading to the hypothesis that oligodendrocyte dysfunction plays a role in the pathophysiology of the disease. The expression of the mRNA for the peripheral myelin protein-22 (PMP-22) is decreased in schizophrenia and recent genetic evidence suggests a link between PMP-22 and schizophrenia. While PMP-22 mRNA is found in both rodent and human brain it has been generally thought that no protein expression occurs. Here we show that PMP-22 protein is present in myelin isolated from adult mouse and human brain. These results suggest that PMP-22 protein likely plays a role in the maintenance and function of central nervous system (CNS) myelin and provide an explanation for why altered PMP-22 expression may be pathophysiologically relevant in a CNS disorder such as schizophrenia.
Myelin; Peripheral myelin protein-22; Schizophrenia
The presenilin-1 gene is mutated in early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. The mutation Pro117Leu is implicated in a very severe form of the disease, with an onset of less than thirty years. The consequences of this mutation on neurogenesis in the hippocampus of adult transgenic mice have already been studied in situ. The survival of neural progenitor cells was impaired resulting in decreased neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus. Our intention was to verify if similar alterations could occur in vitro in progenitor cells from the murine ganglionic eminences isolated from embryos of this same transgenic mouse model. These cells were grown in culture as neurospheres and after differentiation the percentage of neurons generated as well as their morphology were analysed. The mutation results in a significant decrease in neurogenesis compared to the wild type mice and the neurons grow longer and more ramified neurites. A shift of differentiation towards gliogenesis was observed that could explain decreased neurogenesis despite increased proliferation of neural precursors in transgenic neurospheres. A diminished survival of the newly generated mutant neurons is also proposed. Our data raise the possibility that these alterations in embryonic development might contribute to increase the severity of the Alzheimer’s disease phenotype later in adulthood.
ganglionic eminence; neural progenitor cell; neuritic outgrowth; neurogenesis; neuronal morphology; striatum
Mutations in presenilin-1 (Psen1) cause familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD). Both hypoxia and ischemia have been implicated in the pathological cascade that leads to amyloid deposition in AD. Here we investigated whether Psen1 might regulate hypoxic responses by modulating induction of the transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor 1-α (HIF-1α).
In fibroblasts that lack Psen1 induction of HIF-1α was impaired in response to the hypoxia mimetic cobalt chloride, as well as was induction by insulin and calcium chelation. Reintroduction of human Psen1 using a lentiviral vector partially rescued the responsiveness of Psen1-/- fibroblasts to cobalt chloride induction. HIF-1α induction did not require Psen1's associated γ-secretase activity. In addition, the failure of insulin to induce HIF-1α was not explicable on the basis of failed activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K/Akt) pathway which activated normally in Psen1-/- fibroblasts. Rather we found that basal levels of HIF-1α were lower in Psen1-/- fibroblasts and that the basis for lower constitutive levels of HIF-1α was best explained by accelerated HIF-1α degradation. We further found that Psen1 and HIF-1α physically interact suggesting that Psen1 may protect HIF-1α from degradation through the proteasome. In fibroblasts harboring the M146V Psen1 FAD mutation on a mouse Psen1 null background, metabolic induction of HIF-1α by insulin was impaired but not hypoxic induction by cobalt chloride. Unlike Psen1-/- fibroblasts, basal levels of HIF-1α were normal in FAD mutant fibroblasts but activation of the insulin-receptor pathway was impaired. Interestingly, in Psen1-/- primary neuronal cultures HIF-1α was induced normally in response to cobalt chloride but insulin induction of HIF-1α was impaired even though activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway by insulin proceeded normally in Psen1-/- neuronal cultures. Basal levels of HIF-1α were not significantly different in Psen1-/- neurons and HIF-1α levels were normal in Psen1-/- embryos.
Collectively these studies show that Psen1 regulates induction of HIF-1α although they indicate that cell type specific differences exist in the effect of Psen1 on induction. They also show that the M146V Psen1 FAD mutation impairs metabolic induction of HIF-1α, an observation that may have pathophysiological significance for AD.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of senile dementia in the United States and Europe. At present, there is no effective treatment. Given the disease’s prevalence and poor prognosis, the development of animal models has been a high research priority. Transgenic modeling has been pursued on the basis of the amyloid hypothesis and has taken advantage of mutations in the amyloid precursor protein and the presenilins that cause familial forms of Alzheimer’s disease. Modeling has been most aggressively pursued in mice, for which the techniques of genetic modification are well developed. Transgenic mouse models now exist that mimic a range of Alzheimer’s disease–related pathologies. Although none of the models fully replicates the human disease, the models have contributed significant insights into the pathophysiology of β-amyloid toxicity, particularly with respect to the effects of different β-amyloid species and the possible pathogenic role of β-amyloid oligomers. They have also been widely used in the preclinical testing of potential therapeutic modalities and have played a pivotal role in the development of immunotherapies for Alzheimer’s disease that are currently in clinical trials. These models will, without a doubt, continue to play central roles in preclinical testing and be used as tools for developing insights into the biological basis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid precursor protein; animal model; presenilins; transgenic mice
PARK8/LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase 2) was recently identified as a causative gene for autosomal dominant Parkinson’s disease (PD), with LRRK2 mutation G2019S linked to the most frequent familial form of PD. Emerging in vitro evidence indicates that aberrant enzymatic activity of LRRK2 protein carrying this mutation can cause neurotoxicity. However, the physiological and pathophysiological functions of LRRK2 in vivo remain elusive. Here we characterize two bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic mouse strains overexpressing LRRK2 wild-type (Wt) or mutant G2019S. Transgenic LRRK2-Wt mice had elevated striatal dopamine (DA) release with unaltered DA uptake or tissue content. Consistent with this result, LRRK2-Wt mice were hyperactive and showed enhanced performance in motor function tests. These results suggest a role for LRRK2 in striatal DA transmission and the consequent motor function. By contrast, LRRK2-G2019S mice showed an age-dependent decrease in striatal DA content, as well as decreased striatal DA release and uptake. Despite increased brain kinase activity, LRRK2-G2019S overexpression was not associated with loss of DAergic neurons in substantia nigra or degeneration of nigrostriatal terminals at 12 months. Our results thus reveal a pivotal role for LRRK2 in regulating striatal DA transmission and consequent control of motor function. The PD-associated mutation G2019S may exert pathogenic effects by impairing these functions of LRRK2. Our LRRK2 BAC transgenic mice, therefore, could provide a useful model for understanding early PD pathological events.
Parkinson; Kinase; Dopamine; Neuropathology; neurotransmission; Motor Control
Hypercholesterolemia causes atherosclerosis in medium to large sized arteries. Cholesterol is less known for affecting the microvasculature and has not been previously reported to induce microvascular pathology in the central nervous system (CNS).
Mice with a null mutation in the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) gene as well as C57BL/6J mice fed a high cholesterol diet developed a distinct microvascular pathology in the CNS that differs from cholesterol-induced atherosclerotic disease. Microvessel diameter was increased but microvascular density and length were not consistently affected. Degenerative changes and thickened vascular basement membranes were present ultrastructurally. The observed pathology shares features with the microvascular pathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD), including the presence of string-like vessels. Brain apolipoprotein E levels which have been previously found to be elevated in LDLR-/- mice were also increased in C57BL/6J mice fed a high cholesterol diet.
In addition to its effects as an inducer of atherosclerosis in medium to large sized arteries, hypercholesterolemia also induces a microvascular pathology in the CNS that shares features of the vascular pathology found in AD. These observations suggest that high cholesterol may induce microvascular disease in a range of CNS disorders including AD.
Cortical development is disrupted in presenilin-1 null mutant (Psen1−/−) mice. Prior studies have commented on similarities between Psen1−/− and reeler mice. Reelin induces phosphorylation of Dab1 and activates the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway. Psen1 is known to modulate PI3K/Akt signaling and both known reelin receptors (apoER2 and VLDLR) are substrates for Psen1 associated γ-secretase activity. The purpose of this study was to determine whether reelin signaling is disrupted in Psen1−/− mice. We show that while Dab1 is hypophosphorylated late in cortical development in Psen1−/− mice, it is normally phosphorylated at earlier ages and reelin signaling is intact in Psen1−/− primary neuronal cultures. γ-secretase activity was also not required for reelin induced phosphorylation of Dab1. Unlike reeler mice the preplate splits in Psen1−/− brain. Thus cortical development in Psen1−/− mice fails only after splitting of the preplate and is not due to an intrinsic failure of reelin signaling.
presenilin-1; reelin; gamma-secretase; cortical lamination
While the brain vasculature can be imaged with many methods, immunohistochemistry has distinct advantages due to its simplicity and applicability to archival tissue. However, immunohistochemical staining of the murine brain vasculature in aldehyde fixed tissue has proven elusive and inconsistent using current protocols. Here we investigated whether antigen retrieval methods could improve vascular staining in the adult mouse brain. We found that pepsin digestion prior to immunostaining unmasked widespread collagen IV staining of the cerebrovasculature in the adult mouse brain. Pepsin treatment also unmasked widespread vascular staining with laminin, but only marginally improved isolectin B4 staining and did not enhance vascular staining with fibronectin, perlecan or CD146. Collagen IV immunoperoxidase staining was easily combined with cresyl violet counterstaining making it suitable for stereological analyses of both vascular and neuronal parameters in the same tissue section. This method should be widely applicable for labeling the brain vasculature of the mouse in aldehyde fixed tissue from both normal and pathological states.
adult; antigen retrieval; blood vessels; brain; collagen IV; immunohistochemistry; mouse; pepsin
Mice with a null mutation of the presenilin 1 gene (Psen1-/-)die during late intrauterine life or shortly after birth and exhibit multiple CNS and non-CNS abnormalities, including cerebral hemorrhages and altered cortical development. The cellular and molecular basis for the developmental effects of Psen1 remain incompletely understood. Psen1 is expressed in neural progenitors in developing brain, as well as in postmitotic neurons. We crossed transgenic mice with either neuron-specific or neural progenitor-specific expression of Psen1 onto the Psen1-/- background. We show that neither neuron-specific nor neural progenitor-specific expression of Psen1 can rescue the embryonic lethality of the Psen1-/- embryo. Indeed neuron-specific expression rescued none of the abnormalities in Psen1-/- mice. However, Psen1 expression in neural progenitors rescued the cortical lamination defects, as well as the cerebral hemorrhages, and restored a normal vascular pattern in Psen1-/- embryos. Collectively, these studies demonstrate that Psen1 expression in neural progenitor cells is crucial for cortical development and reveal a novel role for neuroectodermal expression of Psen1 in development of the brain vasculature.
Cortical development; CNS hemorrhages; Familial Alzheimer’s disease; Neural progenitor cells; Presenilin 1 (PS1, Psen1); Transgenic mice; Vascular development
Neurofilaments are central determinants of the diameter of myelinated axons. It is less clear whether neurofilaments serve other functional roles such as maintaining the structural integrity of axons over time. Here we show that an age-dependent axonal atrophy develops in the lumbar ventral roots of mice with a null mutation in the mid-sized neurofilament subunit (NF-M) but not in animals with a null mutation in the heavy neurofilament subunit (NF-H). Mice with null mutations in both genes develop atrophy in ventral and dorsal roots as well as a hind limb paralysis with aging. The atrophic process is not accompanied by significant axonal loss or anterior horn cell pathology. In the NF-M–null mutant atrophic ventral root, axons show an age-related depletion of neurofilaments and an increased ratio of microtubules/neurofilaments. By contrast, the preserved dorsal root axons of NF-M–null mutant animals do not show a similar depletion of neurofilaments. Thus, the lack of an NF-M subunit renders some axons selectively vulnerable to an age-dependent atrophic process. These studies argue that neurofilaments are necessary for the structural maintenance of some populations of axons during aging and that the NF-M subunit is especially critical.
aging; axonal atrophy; neurofilament proteins; neuronal cytoskeleton; knockout mice
Neurofilaments (NFs) are prominent components of large myelinated axons. Previous studies have suggested that NF number as well as the phosphorylation state of the COOH-terminal tail of the heavy neurofilament (NF-H) subunit are major determinants of axonal caliber. We created NF-H knockout mice to assess the contribution of NF-H to the development of axon size as well as its effect on the amounts of low and mid-sized NF subunits (NF-L and NF-M respectively). Surprisingly, we found that NF-L levels were reduced only slightly whereas NF-M and tubulin proteins were unchanged in NF-H–null mice. However, the calibers of both large and small diameter myelinated axons were diminished in NF-H–null mice despite the fact that these mice showed only a slight decrease in NF density and that filaments in the mutant were most frequently spaced at the same interfilament distance found in control. Significantly, large diameter axons failed to develop in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. These results demonstrate directly that unlike losing the NF-L or NF-M subunits, loss of NF-H has only a slight effect on NF number in axons. Yet NF-H plays a major role in the development of large diameter axons.
neurofilament proteins; neuronal cytoskeleton; mice; knockout; gene targeting; large diameter axons
Neurofilaments (NFs) are prominent components of large myelinated axons and probably the most abundant of neuronal intermediate filament proteins. Here we show that mice with a null mutation in the mid-sized NF (NF-M) subunit have dramatically decreased levels of light NF (NF-L) and increased levels of heavy NF (NF-H). The calibers of both large and small diameter axons in the central and peripheral nervous systems are diminished. Axons of mutant animals contain fewer neurofilaments and increased numbers of microtubules. Yet the mice lack any overt behavioral phenotype or gross structural defects in the nervous system. These studies suggest that the NF-M subunit is a major regulator of the level of NF-L and that its presence is required to achieve maximal axonal diameter in all size classes of myelinated axons.