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Microarray profiling of hypothalamic gene expression changes in Huntington’s disease mouse models

Dickson E, Sai Dwijesha A, Andersson N, Lundh S, Björkqvist M, Petersén Å and Soylu-Kucharz R.

Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2022 Nov 3;16:1027269. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.1027269. PMID: 36408416; PMCID: PMC9671106.


Structural changes and neuropathology in the hypothalamus have been suggested to contribute to the non-motor manifestations of Huntington’s disease (HD), a neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expanded CAG repeat in the huntingtin (HTT) gene. In the present study, we investigated whether transcriptional changes would be part of hypothalamic pathology induced by the disease-causing huntingtin (HTT) protein. We performed microarray analysis using the Affymetrix platform on total hypothalamic RNA isolated from two HD mouse models and their littermate controls; BACHD mice with ubiquitous expression of full-length mutant HTT (mHTT) and wild-type mice with targeted hypothalamic overexpression of either wild-type HTT (wtHTT) or mHTT fragments.

To analyze microarray datasets (34760 variables) and obtain functional implications of differential expression patterns, we used Linear Models for Microarray Data (limma) followed by Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) using ClusterProfiler. Limma identified 735 and 721 significantly differentially expressed genes (adjusted p < 0.05) in hypothalamus of AAV datasets wtHTT vs control and mHTT vs control. In contrast, for BACHD datasets and the AAV mHTT vs. wtHTT dataset, none of the genes were differentially expressed (adjusted p-value > 0.05 for all probe IDs).

In AAV groups, from the combined limma with GSEA using ClusterProfiler, we found both shared and unique gene sets and pathways for mice with wtHTT overexpression compared to mice with mHTT overexpression. mHTT caused widespread suppression of neuroendocrine networks, as evident by GSEA enrichment of GO-terms related to neurons and/or specific neuroendocrine populations. Using qRT-PCR, we confirmed that mHTT overexpression caused significant downregulation of key enzymes involved in neuropeptide synthesis, including histidine and dopa decarboxylases, compared to wtHTT overexpression. Multiple biosynthetic pathways such as sterol synthesis were among the top shared processes, where both unique and shared genes constituted leading-edge subsets.

In conclusion, mice with targeted overexpression of HTT (wtHTT or mHTT) in the hypothalamus show dysregulation of pathways, of which there are subsets of shared pathways and pathways unique to either wtHTT or mHTT overexpression.

Full text article - on bioRxiv's webpage (opens in a new window)