Journal Article

Sex differences in a transgenic rat model of Huntington's disease: decreased 17β-estradiol levels correlate with reduced numbers of DARPP32<sup>+</sup> neurons in males

Felix J. Bode, Michael Stephan, Hendrik Suhling, Reinhard Pabst, Rainer H. Straub, Kerstin A. Raber, Michael Bonin, Huu Phuc Nguyen, Olaf Riess, Andreas Bauer, Charlotte Sjoberg, Åsa Petersén and Stephan von Hörsten

in Human Molecular Genetics

Volume 17, issue 17, pages 2595-2609
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0964-6906
Published online May 2008 | e-ISSN: 1460-2083 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddn159
Sex differences in a transgenic rat model of Huntington's disease: decreased 17β-estradiol levels correlate with reduced numbers of DARPP32+ neurons in males

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Recent clinical studies have highlighted that female sex hormones represent potential neuroprotective mediators against damage caused by acute and chronic brain diseases. This evidence has been confirmed by experimental studies documenting the protective role of female sex hormones both in vitro and in vivo, although these studies did not specifically focus on Huntington's disease (HD). We therefore investigated the onset and course of HD in female and male transgenic (tg) HD (CAGn51) and control rats across age and focused on three aspects: (i) behavioral and physiological alterations (energy expenditure, home-cage activity, emotional disturbance and motor dysfunction), (ii) morphological markers (numbers and characteristics of striatal DARPP32+ medium-sized spiny neurons (MSNs) and dopamine receptor autoradiography) and (iii) peripheral sex hormone levels as well as striatal estrogen receptor expression. Independent of their sex, tgHD rats exhibited increased levels of food intake, elevated home-cage activity scores and anxiolytic-like behavior, whereas only males showed an impairment of motor function. In line with the latter finding, loss and atrophy of DARPP32+ MSNs were apparent only in male tgHD rats. This result was associated with a decreased striatal dopamine D1 receptor density and lower plasma levels of 17β-estradiol at the age of 14 months. As DARPP32+ MSNs expressed both α- and β-estrogen receptors and showed a correlation between cell numbers and 17β-estradiol levels, our findings suggest sex-related differences in the HD phenotype pointing to a substantial neuroprotective effect of sex hormones and opening new perspectives on the therapy of HD.

Journal Article.  8418 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Genetics and Genomics

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