Histological, cellular, and molecular abnormalities in forebrain and spinal cord of three distinct mouse models of Down syndrome
Aziz, Nadine M.
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Down syndrome (DS) is a developmental disorder caused by a triplication of human chromosome 21, which contains approximately 550 genes. DS is the most common autosomal aneuploidy occurring with an incidence of 1 in 793 live births. Hallmarks of DS include abnormal central nervous system (CNS) development and function resulting in intellectual disability (ID), motor dysfunction, and early onset Alzheimer’s neuropathology. Studies have elucidated widespread neurohistological abnormalities in brains of fetuses with DS as early as 20 weeks of gestation, suggesting that early dysfunction in neural development may set the stage for exacerbated CNS abnormalities throughout life. Additionally, the complex constellation of symptoms associated with DS changes over the lifespan, particularly in adolescence and in middle to old age. Thus, these periods may represent opportune windows for age-specific therapeutic interventions. Due to ethical and practical constraints, use of human samples is alone insufficient to characterize the etiological underpinnings of DS phenotypes across the lifespan. Furthermore, while human data are instructive for drug development, preclinical trials are necessary for target validation, to establish dosage, and to prove safety and efficacy of any proposed therapeutic. With the advent of mouse models of DS, informative studies on the neurobiology of DS as well as preclinical testing of proposed therapies are possible. Here, we use a multi-pronged approach to assess molecular, neuroanatomical, and behavioral phenotypes indicative of brain and SC function in three distinct mouse models of DS: Ts1Cje, Ts65Dn, and Dp16. We identify neurodevelopment phenotypes, cytoarchitectural aberrations, bioenergetic abnormalities, myelination deficits, and motor/cognitive dysfunction at multiple ages spanning the period between embryonic day 12.5 and 6-7 months in trisomic mice. Additionally, we show that while Ts65Dn mice recapitulate all known phases of histological, functional, and behavioral phenotypes typical of DS starting from prenatal development and into middle age, this is not true for the Ts1Cje or Dp16 models. Lastly, we present promising outcomes of two possible therapies for cognitive and motor dysfunction in Ts65Dn mice. Altogether our findings provide insights into the underlying neurobiology of ID and motor dysfunction in DS and elucidate molecular changes that can be targeted for future therapeutic intervention.