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Elife. 2018 Sep 4;7. pii: e38744. doi: 10.7554/eLife.38744.

Metformin reverses early cortical network dysfunction and behavior changes in Huntington's disease.

Author information

Institute of Pathophysiology, Focus Program Translational Neurosciences, University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany.
Institute for Human Genetics, University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany.
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Bonn, Germany.
Department for Neurology, University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany.
Division of Neurosciences, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, United Kingdom.
Mouse Behavior Unit, University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany.
Department of Neuroproteomics, Max-Delbrück-Center, Berlin, Germany.
Contributed equally


Catching primal functional changes in early, 'very far from disease onset' (VFDO) stages of Huntington's disease is likely to be the key to a successful therapy. Focusing on VFDO stages, we assessed neuronal microcircuits in premanifest Hdh150 knock-in mice. Employing in vivo two-photon Ca2+ imaging, we revealed an early pattern of circuit dysregulation in the visual cortex - one of the first regions affected in premanifest Huntington's disease - characterized by an increase in activity, an enhanced synchronicity and hyperactive neurons. These findings are accompanied by aberrations in animal behavior. We furthermore show that the antidiabetic drug metformin diminishes aberrant Huntingtin protein load and fully restores both early network activity patterns and behavioral aberrations. This network-centered approach reveals a critical window of vulnerability far before clinical manifestation and establishes metformin as a promising candidate for a chronic therapy starting early in premanifest Huntington's disease pathogenesis long before the onset of clinical symptoms.


C. elegans; Huntington disease; cortical microcircuits; in vivo calcium imaging; metformin; mouse; neuronal hyperactivity; neuroscience

Conflict of interest statement

IA, MW, NG, JK, HW, NO, SW, PN, CC, OM, SB, KM, DB, KR, RL, JL, EW, AM, SK, SS, AS No competing interests declared

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