While most neuropathologic studies focus on regions involved in behavioral abnormalities in autism, it is also important to identify whether areas that appear functionally normal are devoid of pathologic alterations. In this study we analyzed the posteroinferior occipitotemporal gyrus, an extrastriate area not considered to be affected in autism. This area borders the fusiform gyrus, which is known to exhibit functional and cellular abnormalities in autism.
No studies have implicated posteroinferior occipitotemporal gyrus dysfunction in autism, leading us to hypothesize that neuropathology would not occur in this area. We indeed observed no significant differences in pyramidal neuron number or size in layers III, V, and VI in seven pairs of autism and controls.
These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that neuropathology is unique to areas involved in stereotypies and social and emotional behaviors, and support the specificity of the localization of pathology in the fusiform gyrus.
Autism; Fusiform gyrus; Neuropathology; Posteroinferior occipitotemporal gyrus; Stereology
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
The accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) oligomers or fibrils is thought to be one of the main causes of synaptic and neuron loss, believed to underlie cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Neuron loss has rarely been documented in amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic mouse models. We investigated whether two APP mouse models characterized by different folding states of amyloid showed different neuronal densities using an accurate method of cell counting.
We examined total cell and neuronal populations in Swedish/Indiana APP mutant mice (TgCRND8) with severe Aβ pathology that includes fibrils, plaques, and oligomers, and Dutch APP mutant mice with only Aβ oligomer pathology. Using the isotropic fractionator, we found no differences from control mice in regional total cell populations in either TgCRND8 or Dutch mice. However, there were 31.8% fewer hippocampal neurons in TgCRND8 compared to controls, while no such changes were observed in Dutch mice.
We show that the isotropic fractionator is a convenient method for estimating neuronal content in milligram quantities of brain tissue and represents a useful tool to assess cell loss efficiently in transgenic models with different types of neuropathology. Our data support the hypothesis that TgCRND8 mice with a spectrum of Aβ plaque, fibril, and oligomer pathology exhibit neuronal loss whereas Dutch mice with only oligomers, showed no evidence for neuronal loss. This suggests that the combination of plaques, fibrils, and oligomers causes more damage to mouse hippocampal neurons than Aβ oligomers alone.
Alzheimer’s disease; Mouse models; Amyloid beta (Aβ); Isotropic fractionator; Neuronal loss
Since the first description of the case of Auguste Deter, presented in Tübingen in 1906 by Alois Alzheimer, there has been an exponential increase in our knowledge of the neuropathological, cellular, and molecular foundation of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The concept of AD pathogenesis has evolved from a static, binary view discriminating cognitive normality from dementia, towards a dynamic view that considers AD pathology as a long-lasting morbid process that takes place progressively over years, or even decades, before the first symptoms become apparent, and thus operating in a continuum between the two aforementioned extreme states. Several biomarkers have been proposed to predict AD-related cognitive decline, initially in cases with mild cognitive impairment, and more recently in cognitively intact individuals. These early markers define at-risk individuals thought to be in the preclinical phase of AD. However, the clinical relevance of this preclinical phase remains controversial. The fate of such individuals, who are cognitively intact, but positive for some early AD biomarkers, is currently uncertain at best. In this report, we advocate the point of view that although most of these preclinical cases will evolve to clinically overt AD, some appear to have efficient compensatory mechanisms and virtually never develop dementia. We critically review the currently available early AD markers, discuss their clinical relevance, and propose a novel classification of preclinical AD, designating these non-progressing cases as 'stable asymptomatic cerebral amyloidosis'.
Alzheimer disease; asymptomatic; cerebral amyloidosis; cognition; compensatory phenomena; dementia
Attentional dysfunction is among the most consistent observations of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, the neural nature of this deficit in ASD is still unclear. In this study, we aimed to identify the neurobehavioral correlates of attentional dysfunction in ASD. We used the Attention Network Test-Revised and functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine alerting, orienting, and executive control functions, as well as the neural substrates underlying these attentional functions in unmedicated, high-functioning adults with ASD (n = 12) and matched healthy controls (HC, n = 12). Compared with HC, individuals with ASD showed increased error rates in alerting and executive control, accompanied by lower activity in the mid-frontal gyrus and the caudate nucleus for alerting, and by the absence of significant functional activation in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) for executive control. In addition, greater behavioral deficiency in executive control in ASD was correlated with less functional activation of the ACC. These findings of behavioral and neural abnormalities in alerting and executive control of attention in ASD may suggest core attentional deficits, which require further investigation.
Alerting; anterior cingulate cortex; attentional networks; autism; executive control
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
Memory deficits in Alzheimer's disease (AD) manifest together with the loss of synapses caused by the disruption of the postsynaptic density (PSD), a network of scaffold proteins located in dendritic spines. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain elusive. Since it was shown that ProSAP2/Shank3 scaffold assembly within the PSD is Zn2+-dependent and that the amyloid beta protein (Aβ) is able to bind Zn2+, we hypothesize that sequestration of Zn2+ ions by Aβ contributes to ProSAP/Shank platform malformation.
To test this hypothesis, we designed multiple in vitro and in vivo assays demonstrating ProSAP/Shank dysregulation in rat hippocampal cultures following Aβ oligomer accumulation. These changes were independent from alterations on ProSAP/Shank transcriptional level. However, application of soluble Aβ prevented association of Zn2+ ions with ProSAP2/Shank3 in a cell-based assay and decreased the concentration of Zn2+ clusters within dendrites. Zn2+ supplementation or saturation of Aβ with Zn2+ ions prior to cell treatment was able to counter the effects induced by Aβ on synapse density and ProSAP2/Shank3 levels at the PSD. Interestingly, intracellular Zn2+ levels in APP-PS1 mice and human AD hippocampus are reduced along with a reduction in synapse density and synaptic ProSAP2/Shank3 and Shank1 protein levels.
We conclude that sequestration of Zn2+ ions by Aβ significantly contributes to changes in ProSAP2/Shank3 platforms. These changes in turn lead to less consolidated (mature) synapses reflected by a decrease in Shank1 protein levels at the PSD and decreased synapse density in hippocampal neurons.
PSD; Alzheimer's disease; ProSAP2; Shank3; Shank1; Amyloid; Oligomers; Zn2+; Hippocampus; synapse
SHANK3 is a protein in the core of the postsynaptic density (PSD) and has a critical role in recruiting many key functional elements to the PSD and to the synapse, including components of α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA), metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) and N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) glutamate receptors, as well as cytoskeletal elements. Loss of a functional copy of the SHANK3 gene leads to the neurobehavioral manifestations of 22q13 deletion syndrome and/or to autism spectrum disorders. The goal of this study was to examine the effects of haploinsufficiency of full-length Shank3 in mice, focusing on synaptic development, transmission and plasticity, as well as on social behaviors, as a model for understanding SHANK3 haploinsufficiency in humans.
We used mice with a targeted disruption of Shank3 in which exons coding for the ankyrin repeat domain were deleted and expression of full-length Shank3 was disrupted. We studied synaptic transmission and plasticity by multiple methods, including patch-clamp whole cell recording, two-photon time-lapse imaging and extracellular recordings of field excitatory postsynaptic potentials. We also studied the density of GluR1-immunoreactive puncta in the CA1 stratum radiatum and carried out assessments of social behaviors.
In Shank3 heterozygous mice, there was reduced amplitude of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents from hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons and the input-output (I/O) relationship at Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses in acute hippocampal slices was significantly depressed; both of these findings indicate a reduction in basal neurotransmission. Studies with specific inhibitors demonstrated that the decrease in basal transmission reflected reduced AMPA receptor-mediated transmission. This was further supported by the observation of reduced numbers of GluR1-immunoreactive puncta in the stratum radiatum. Long-term potentiation (LTP), induced either with θ-burst pairing (TBP) or high-frequency stimulation, was impaired in Shank3 heterozygous mice, with no significant change in long-term depression (LTD). In concordance with the LTP results, persistent expansion of spines was observed in control mice after TBP-induced LTP; however, only transient spine expansion was observed in Shank3 heterozygous mice. Male Shank3 heterozygotes displayed less social sniffing and emitted fewer ultrasonic vocalizations during interactions with estrus female mice, as compared to wild-type littermate controls.
We documented specific deficits in synaptic function and plasticity, along with reduced reciprocal social interactions in Shank3 heterozygous mice. Our results are consistent with altered synaptic development and function in Shank3 haploinsufficiency, highlighting the importance of Shank3 in synaptic function and supporting a link between deficits in synapse function and neurodevelopmental disorders. The reduced glutamatergic transmission that we observed in the Shank3 heterozygous mice represents an interesting therapeutic target in Shank3-haploinsufficiency syndromes.
Cholesterol content of cerebral membranes is tightly regulated by elaborate mechanisms that balance the level of cholesterol synthesis, uptake and efflux. Among the conventional regulatory elements, a recent research focus has been nuclear receptors, a superfamily of ligand-activated transcription factors providing an indispensable regulatory framework in controlling cholesterol metabolism pathway genes. The mechanism of transcriptional regulation by nuclear receptors such as LXRs involves formation of heterodimers with RXRs. LXR/RXR functions as a sensor of cellular cholesterol concentration and mediates cholesterol efflux by inducing the transcription of key cholesterol shuffling vehicles namely, ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) and ApoE.
In the absence of quantitative data from humans, the relevance of expression of nuclear receptors and their involvement in cerebral cholesterol homeostasis has remained elusive. In this work, new evidence is provided from direct analysis of human postmortem brain gene and protein expression suggesting that RXRα, a key regulator of cholesterol metabolism is differentially expressed in individuals with dementia. Importantly, RXRα expression showed strong association with ABCA1 and ApoE gene expression, particularly in AD vulnerable regions.
These findings suggest that LXR/RXR-induced upregulation of ABCA1 and ApoE levels may be the molecular determinants of cholesterol dyshomeostasis and of the accompanying dementia observed in AD.
Background and purpose
Most of the neuropathological studies in brain aging were based on the assumption of a symmetric right-left hemisphere distribution of both Alzheimer's disease (AD) and vascular pathology. To explore the impact of asymmetric lesion formation on cognition, we performed a clinicopathological analysis of 153 cases with mixed pathology except macroinfarcts.
Cognitive status was assessed prospectively using the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale; neuropathological evaluation included assessment of Braak neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) and Aß-deposition staging, microvascular pathology and lacunes. The right-left hemisphere differences in neuropathological scores were evaluated using the Wilcoxon signed rank test. The relationship between the interhemispheric distribution of lesions and CDR scores was assessed using ordered logistic regression.
Unlike Braak NFT and Aß deposition staging, vascular scores were significantly higher in the left hemisphere for all CDR scores. A negative relationship was found between Braak NFT, but not Aß, staging and vascular scores in cases with moderate to severe dementia. In both hemispheres, Braak NFT staging was the main determinant of cognitive decline followed by vascular scores and Aß deposition staging. The concomitant predominance of AD and vascular pathology in the right hemisphere was associated with significantly higher CDR scores.
Our data show that the cognitive impact of AD and vascular lesions in mixed cases may be assessed unilaterally without major information loss. However, interhemispheric differences and, in particular, increased vascular and AD burden in the right hemisphere may increase the risk for dementia in this group.
Alzheimer; cerebral infarct; cognition; white matter disease
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.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Recently, an increased interest in the role diet plays in the pathology of AD has resulted in a focus on the detrimental effects of diets high in cholesterol and fat and the beneficial effects of caloric restriction. The current study examines how dietary composition modulates cerebral amyloidosis and neuronal integrity in the TgCRND8 mouse model of AD.
From 4 wks until 18 wks of age, male and female TgCRND8 mice were maintained on one of four diets: (1) reference (regular) commercial chow; (2) high fat/low carbohydrate custom chow (60 kcal% fat/30 kcal% protein/10 kcal% carbohydrate); (3) high protein/low carbohydrate custom chow (60 kcal% protein/30 kcal% fat/10 kcal% carbohydrate); or (4) high carbohydrate/low fat custom chow (60 kcal% carbohydrate/30 kcal% protein/10 kcal% fat). At age 18 wks, mice were sacrificed, and brains studied for (a) wet weight; (b) solubilizable Aβ content by ELISA; (c) amyloid plaque burden; (d) stereologic analysis of selected hippocampal subregions.
Animals receiving a high fat diet showed increased brain levels of solubilizable Aβ, although we detected no effect on plaque burden. Unexpectedly, brains of mice fed a high protein/low carbohydrate diet were 5% lower in weight than brains from all other mice. In an effort to identify regions that might link loss of brain mass to cognitive function, we studied neuronal density and volume in hippocampal subregions. Neuronal density and volume in the hippocampal CA3 region of TgCRND8 mice tended to be lower in TgCRND8 mice receiving the high protein/low carbohydrate diet than in those receiving the regular chow. Neuronal density and volume were preserved in CA1 and in the dentate gyrus.
Dissociation of Aβ changes from brain mass changes raises the possibility that diet plays a role not only in modulating amyloidosis but also in modulating neuronal vulnerability. However, in the absence of a study of the effects of a high protein/low carbohydrate diet on nontransgenic mice, one cannot be certain how much, if any, of the loss of brain mass exhibited by high protein/low carbohydrate diet-fed TgCRND8 mice was due to an interaction between cerebral amyloidosis and diet. Given the recent evidence that certain factors favor the maintenance of cognitive function in the face of substantial structural neuropathology, we propose that there might also exist factors that sensitize brain neurons to some forms of neurotoxicity, including, perhaps, amyloid neurotoxicity. Identification of these factors could help reconcile the poor clinicopathological correlation between cognitive status and structural neuropathology, including amyloid pathology.
White matter abnormalities have been detected using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in a variety of locations in the brains of patients with schizophrenia. Studies that included first-episode patients report less severe or no abnormalities but more pronounced deficits in chronic patients. Here we investigated these abnormalities in a very large group of schizophrenia that had both large ranges in age and in duration of illness. A highly reproducible DTI-tractography technique was used to quantify the fractional anisotropy of the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum as well as the bilateral pyramidal tracts. We found a decline in fractional anisotropy that correlated with the duration of illness in the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum but not in the pyramidal tracts. The findings suggest that there are white matter tract-specific degenerative mechanisms that may be present at the point of illness onset and that progress throughout the illness.
Diffusion Tensor Imaging; Schizophrenia; Fiber Tracking
Resuscitation and prolonged ventilation using 100% oxygen after cardiac arrest is standard clinical practice despite evidence from animal models indicating that neurologic outcome is improved using normoxic compared with hyperoxic resuscitation. This study tested the hypothesis that normoxic ventilation during the first hour after cardiac arrest in dogs protects against prelethal oxidative stress to proteins, loss of the critical metabolic enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDHC), and minimizes subsequent neuronal death in the hippocampus. Anesthetized beagles underwent 10 mins ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest, followed by defibrillation and ventilation with either 21% or 100% O2. At 1 h after resuscitation, the ventilator was adjusted to maintain normal blood gas levels in both groups. Brains were perfusion-fixed at 2 h reperfusion and used for immunohistochemical measurements of hippocampal nitrotyrosine, a product of protein oxidation, and the E1α subunit of PDHC. In hyperoxic dogs, PDHC immunostaining diminished by approximately 90% compared with sham-operated dogs, while staining in normoxic animals was not significantly different from nonischemic dogs. Protein nitration in the hippocampal neurons of hyperoxic animals was 2–3 times greater than either sham-operated or normoxic resuscitated animals at 2 h reperfusion. Stereologic quantification of neuronal death at 24 h reperfusion showed a 40% reduction using normoxic compared with hyperoxic resuscitation. These results indicate that postischemic hyperoxic ventilation promotes oxidative stress that exacerbates prelethal loss of pyruvate dehydrogenase and delayed hippocampal neuronal cell death. Moreover, these findings indicate the need for clinical trials comparing the effects of different ventilatory oxygen levels on neurologic outcome after cardiac arrest.
brain oxidative metabolism; global cerebral ischemia; hyperoxia; immunohistochemistry; mitochondria; nitrotyrosine
Many electron transport chain (ETC) genes show accelerated rates of nonsynonymous nucleotide substitutions in anthropoid primate lineages, yet in non-anthropoid lineages the ETC proteins are typically highly conserved. Here, we test the hypothesis that COX5A, the ETC gene that encodes cytochrome c oxidase subunit 5A, shows a pattern of anthropoid-specific adaptive evolution, and investigate the distribution of this protein in catarrhine brains.
In a dataset comprising 29 vertebrate taxa, including representatives from all major groups of primates, there is nearly 100% conservation of the COX5A amino acid sequence among extant, non-anthropoid placental mammals. The most recent common ancestor of these species lived about 100 million years (MY) ago. In contrast, anthropoid primates show markedly elevated rates of nonsynonymous evolution. In particular, branch site tests identify five positively selected codons in anthropoids, and ancestral reconstructions infer that substitutions in these codons occurred predominantly on stem lineages (anthropoid, ape and New World monkey) and on the human terminal branch. Examination of catarrhine brain samples by immunohistochemistry characterizes for the first time COX5A protein distribution in the primate neocortex, and suggests that the protein is most abundant in the mitochondria of large-size projection neurons. Real time quantitative PCR supports previous microarray results showing COX5A is expressed in cerebral cortical tissue at a higher level in human than in chimpanzee or gorilla.
Taken together, these results suggest that both protein structural and gene regulatory changes contributed to COX5A evolution during humankind's ancestry. Furthermore, these findings are consistent with the hypothesis that adaptations in ETC genes contributed to the emergence of the energetically expensive anthropoid neocortex.
Evidence suggests that white matter integrity may play an underlying pathophysiological role in schizophrenia. N-acetylaspartate (NAA), as measured by Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), is a neuronal marker and is decreased in white matter lesions and regions of axonal loss. It has also been found to be reduced in the prefrontal and temporal regions in patients with schizophrenia. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) allows one to measure the orientations of axonal tracts as well as the coherence of axonal bundles. DTI is thus sensitive to demyelination and other structural abnormalities. DTI has also shown abnormalities in these regions.
MRS and DTI were obtained on 42 healthy subjects and 40 subjects with schizophrenia. The data was analyzed using regions of interests in the Dorso-Lateral Prefrontal white matter, Medial Temporal white matter and Occipital white matter using both imaging modalities.
NAA was significantly reduced in the patient population in the Medial Temporal regions. DTI anisotropy indices were also reduced in the same Medial Temporal regions. NAA and DTI-anisotropy indices were also correlated in the left medial temporal region.
Our results implicate defects in the medial temporal white matter in patients with schizophrenia. Moreover, MRS and DTI are complementary modalities for the study of white matter disruptions in patients with schizophrenia.
A group of eminent cetacean researchers respond to headlines charging that dolphins might be "flippin' idiots". They examine behavioural, anatomical and evolutionary data to conclude that the large brain of cetaceans evolved to support complex cognitive abilities.