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Normal sensitivity to excitotoxicity in a transgenic Huntington’s disease rat

Winkler C, Gil JMAC, Araújo IM, Rieß O, Skripuletz I, von Hörsten S and Petersén Å.

Brain Research Bulletin 69: 306-310 (2006)


Huntington's disease (HD) is a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the HD gene. Excitotoxic cell damage by excessive stimulation of glutamate receptors has been hypothesized to contribute to the pathogenesis of HD. Transgenic mouse models of HD have shown variable sensitivity to excitotoxicity. The models differ in the genetic background, the type and length of the promoter driving the transgene expression, the CAG repeat length and/or the HD gene construct length. Furthermore, one has to differentiate whether transgenic or knock-in models have been used. All these factors may be involved in determining the responsiveness to an excitotoxic insult. Here, we explored the responsiveness to excitotoxic damage using a transgenic HD rat model carrying 22% of the rat HD gene which is driven by the rat HD promoter and which harbors 51 CAG repeats. 3 and 18 months old transgenic HD rats and their wild-type littermates received unilateral intrastriatal injections of the glutamate analogue quinolinic acid. Lesion size was assessed 7 days later using the degenerative stain Fluoro-Jade and by immunohistochemistry for the neuronal protein NeuN. No difference in susceptibility to excitotoxicity was found between the groups. Our study supports mouse data showing maintained susceptibility to excitotoxicity with the expression of around 25% of the full HD gene. Differences in sensitivity to excitotoxicity between genetic animal models of HD may be dependent on the length of the expressed HD gene although additional factors are also likely to be important.