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Evidence for dysfunction of the nigrostriatal pathway in the R6/1 line of transgenic Huntington's disease mice

Petersén Å, Puschban Z, Lotharius J, NicNiocaill B, Wiekop B, O´Connor, WT and Brundin P.

Neurobiology of Disease 11: 134-146 (2002)


The present multidisciplinary study examined nigrostriatal dopamine and striatal amino acid transmission in the R6/1 line of transgenic Huntington's disease (HD) mice expressing exon 1 of the HD gene with 115 CAG repeats. Although the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons was not reduced and nigrostriatal connectivity remained intact in 16-week-old R6/1 mice, the size of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons in the substantia nigra was reduced by 15%, and approximately 30% of these cells exhibited aggregated huntingtin. In addition, using in vivo microdialysis, we found that basal extracellular striatal dopamine levels were reduced by 70% in R6/1 mice compared to their wild-type littermates. Intrastriatal perfusion with malonate in R6/1 mice resulted in a short-lasting, attenuated increase in local dopamine release compared to wild-type mice. Furthermore, the size of the malonate-induced striatal lesion was 80% smaller in these animals. Taken together, these findings suggest that a functional deficit in nigrostriatal dopamine transmission may contribute to the behavioral phenotype and the resistance to malonate-induced neurotoxicity characteristic of R6/1 HD mice.