JOURNAL ARTICLE

Administration of recombinant human Activin-A has powerful neurotrophic effects on select striatal phenotypes in the quinolinic acid lesion model of Huntington's disease

P E Hughes, T Alexi, C E Williams, R G Clark, P D Gluckman
Neuroscience 1999, 92 (1): 197-209
10392842
Huntington disease is characterized by the selective loss of striatal neurons, particularly of medium-sized spiny glutamate decarboxylase67 staining/GABAergic projection neurons which co-contain the calcium binding protein calbindin. Lesioning of the adult rat striatum by intrastriatal injection of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor agonist quinolinic acid (100 nmol) results in a pattern of striatal neuropathology seven days later that resembles that seen in the Huntington brain. Using this animal model of human Huntington's disease we investigated the effect of daily intrastriatal infusion of the nerve cell survival molecule ActivinA (single bolus dose of 0.73 microg daily for seven days) on the quinolinic acid-induced degeneration of various striatal neuronal phenotypes. By seven days, unilateral intrastriatal infusion of quinolinic acid produced a partial but significant loss (P < 0.01) in the number of striatal neurons immunoreactive for glutamate decarboxylase (to 51.0+/-5.8% of unlesioned levels), calbindin (to 58.7+/-5.1%), choline acetyltransferase (to 68.6+/-6.1%), NADPH-diaphorase (to 47.4+/-5.4%), parvalbumin (to 58.8+/-4.1%) and calretinin (to 60.6+/-8.6%) in adult rats that were administered intrastriatal phosphate-buffered saline for seven days following quinolinic acid. In contrast, in rats that received intrastriatal recombinant human ActivinA once daily for seven days following quinolinic acid, phenotypic degeneration was significantly attenuated in several populations of striatal neurons. Treatment with ActivinA had the most potent protective effect on the striatal cholinergic interneuron population almost completely preventing the lesion induced decline in choline acetyltransferase expression (to 95.1+/-5.8% of unlesioned levels, P < 0.01). ActivinA also conferred a significant protective effect on parvalbumin (to 87.5+/-7.7%, P < 0.01) and NADPH-diaphorase (to 77.5+/-7.5%, P < 0.01) interneuron populations but failed to prevent the phenotypic degeneration of calretinin neurons (to 56.6+/-5.5%). Glutamate decarboxylase67 and calbindin-staining nerve cells represent largely overlapping populations and both identify striatal GABAergic projection neurons. We found that ActivinA significantly attenuated the loss in the numbers of neurons staining for calbindin (to 79.7+/-6.6%, P < 0.05) but not glutamate decarboxylase67 (to 61.1+/-5.9%) at seven days following quinolinic acid lesioning. Taken together these results suggest that exogenous administration of ActivinA can rescue both striatal interneurons (labelled with choline acetyltransferase, parvalbumin, NADPH-diaphorase) and striatal projection neurons (labelled by calbindin) from excitotoxic lesioning with quinolinic acid. Longer-term studies will be required to determine whether these surviving calbindin-expressing projection neurons recover their ability to express the glutamate decarboxylase67/GABAergic phenotype. These results therefore suggest that treatment with ActivinA may help to prevent the degeneration of vulnerable striatal neuronal populations in Huntington's disease.

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