R6/2 Neurons With Intranuclear Inclusions Survive for Prolonged Periods in the Brains of Chimeric Mice

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Journal of Comparative Neurology


Natural Sciences




The R6/2 mouse possesses mutant exon 1 of human Hdh, and R6/2 mice with 150 CAG repeats show neurological abnormalities by 10 weeks and die by 15 weeks. Few brain abnormalities, however, are evident at death, other than widespread ubiquitinated neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NIIs). We constructed R6/2t+/t− ⟷ wildtype (WT) chimeric mice to prolong survival of R6/2 cells and determine if neuronal death and/or neuronal injury become evident with longer survival. ROSA26 mice (which bear a lacZ transgene) were used as WT to distinguish between R6/2 and WT neurons. Chimeric mice consisting partly of R6/2 cells lived longer than pure R6/2 mice (up to 10 months), with the survival proportional to the R6/2 contribution. Genotypically R6/2 cells formed NIIs in the chimeras, and these NIIs grew only slightly larger than in 12-week pure R6/2 mice, even after 10 months. Additionally, neuropil aggregates formed near R6/2 neurons in chimeric mice older than 15 weeks. Thus, R6/2 neurons could survive well beyond 15 weeks in chimeras. Moreover, little neuronal degeneration was evident in either cortex or striatum by routine histological stains. Nonetheless, striatal shrinkage and ventricular enlargement occurred, and striatal projection neuron markers characteristically reduced in Huntingtonʼs disease were diminished. Consistent with such abnormalities, cortex and striatum in chimeras showed increased astrocytic glial fibrillary acidic protein. These results suggest that while cortical and striatal neurons can survive nearly a year with nuclear and extranuclear aggregates of mutant huntingtin, such lengthy survival does reveal cortical and striatal abnormality brought on by the truncated mutant protein.