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J Neurosci. 2019 Feb 20;39(8):1505-1524. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0571-18.2018. Epub 2018 Dec 26.

Degeneration of ipRGCs in Mouse Models of Huntington's Disease Disrupts Non-Image-Forming Behaviors Before Motor Impairment.

Author information

1
Taiwan International Graduate Program in Molecular Medicine, National Yang-Ming University and Academia Sinica, Taipei 115, Taiwan.
2
Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei 115, Taiwan, and.
3
Department of Life Science, National Taiwan University, Taipei 106, Taiwan.
4
Department of Life Science, National Taiwan University, Taipei 106, Taiwan alenskchen@ntu.edu.tw bmychern@ibms.sinica.edu.tw.
5
Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei 115, Taiwan, and alenskchen@ntu.edu.tw bmychern@ibms.sinica.edu.tw.

Abstract

Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), which express the photopigment melanopsin, are photosensitive neurons in the retina and are essential for non-image-forming functions, circadian photoentrainment, and pupillary light reflexes. Five subtypes of ipRGCs (M1-M5) have been identified in mice. Although ipRGCs are spared in several forms of inherited blindness, they are affected in Alzheimer's disease and aging, which are associated with impaired circadian rhythms. Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal neurodegenerative disease caused by the expansion of a CAG repeat in the huntingtin gene. In addition to motor function impairment, HD mice also show impaired circadian rhythms and loss of ipRGC. Here, we found that, in HD mouse models (R6/2 and N171-82Q male mice), the expression of melanopsin was reduced before the onset of motor deficits. The expression of retinal T-box brain 2, a transcription factor essential for ipRGCs, was associated with the survival of ipRGCs. The number of M1 ipRGCs in R6/2 male mice was reduced due to apoptosis, whereas non-M1 ipRGCs were relatively resilient to HD progression. Most importantly, the reduced innervations of M1 ipRGCs, which was assessed by X-gal staining in R6/2-OPN4Lacz/+ male mice, contributed to the diminished light-induced c-fos and vasoactive intestinal peptide in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), which may explain the impaired circadian photoentrainment in HD mice. Collectively, our results show that M1 ipRGCs were susceptible to the toxicity caused by mutant Huntingtin. The resultant impairment of M1 ipRGCs contributed to the early degeneration of the ipRGC-SCN pathway and disrupted circadian regulation during HD progression.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Circadian disruption is a common nonmotor symptom of Huntington's disease (HD). In addition to the molecular defects in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), the cause of circadian disruption in HD remains to be further explored. We hypothesized that ipRGCs, by integrating light input to the SCN, participate in the circadian regulation in HD mice. We report early reductions in melanopsin in two mouse models of HD, R6/2, and N171-82Q. Suppression of retinal T-box brain 2, a transcription factor essential for ipRGCs, by mutant Huntingtin might mediate the reduced number of ipRGCs. Importantly, M1 ipRGCs showed higher susceptibility than non-M1 ipRGCs in R6/2 mice. The resultant impairment of M1 ipRGCs contributed to the early degeneration of the ipRGC-SCN pathway and the circadian abnormality during HD progression.

KEYWORDS:

SCN; Tbr2; VIP; circadian disruption; ipRGC; melanopsin

PMID:
30587542
PMCID:
PMC6381252
[Available on 2019-08-20]
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0571-18.2018

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