Evidence of functional brain reorganization on the basis of blood flow changes in the CAG140 knock-in mouse model of Huntington’s disease

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Abstract

Neuroimaging, especially functional brain mapping, may provide insights into the distributed involvement of multiple brain regions and loops in disorders classically associated with pathology of a localized region. One example is Huntington’s disease (HD), typically classified as a basal ganglia disorder. Here, we report genotypic differences in cerebral perfusion mapping in an HD mouse model characterized by a gene knock-in (KI) of a human exon 1 CAG140 expansion repeat (CAG140 KI mice). Animals were examined at 6 months and compared with wild-type littermates. Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was mapped in the awake, nonrestrained, male mouse at rest using [14C]-iodoantipyrine autoradiography and analyzed in three-dimensionally reconstructed brains by statistical parametric mapping. Our results showed significant changes in rCBF between CAG140 KI and WT mice, such that CAG140 KI animals showed hypoperfusion of the basal ganglia motor circuit and hyperperfusion of cerebellar–thalamic and somatosensory regions. Significant hypoperfusion was also noted in CAG140 KI mice in the prelimbic and cingulate cortex (medial prefrontal area) and the hippocampus – areas associated with cognitive processing and mood. Changes in rCBF were apparent in the absence of motor deficits (rotarod test) or atrophy in the striatum (caudate-putamen) or hemispheric volume. Our results suggest a functional reorganization of whole-brain networks at a presymptomatic stage in the life of the CAG140 KI mouse. Functional brain mapping in animals may, in the future, serve as a translational biomarker for identifying sites of early synaptic change in the HD brain and for directing targeted preclinical molecular studies and clinical therapies.

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