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Exp Neurol. 1993 Jan;119(1):46-71.

Excitotoxin lesions in primates as a model for Huntington's disease: histopathologic and neurochemical characterization.

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C. S. Kubik Laboratory for Neuropathology, James Homer Wright Pathology Laboratories and Neurology Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.


Excitotoxin lesions induced by quinolinic acid (QA) were made unilaterally in the caudate nucleus and putamen of 12 rhesus monkeys. Both acute (2-3 weeks) and chronic (4-6 months) effects were evaluated. Excitotoxin striatal lesions were characterized by a central zone of intense astrogliosis and marked neuronal depletion, which was surrounded by a transition zone in which there was partial neuronal sparing throughout the entire lesioned side. Immunocytochemical and enzyme histochemical markers for both large and medium-sized aspiny- and spiny-striatal neurons clearly demonstrated a selective pattern of neuronal vulnerability to the excitotoxic effects of QA within lesioned striata. Medium-sized spiny neurons containing calbindin Dk28, enkephalin, and substance P were disproportionately lost, while aspiny neuronal subpopulations containing NADPH diaphorase (NADPH-d) and choline acetyltransferase activity (ChAT) were relatively spared. Combined labeling by NADPH-d enzyme histochemistry and Nissl staining, as well as NADPH-d histochemistry and calbindin Dk28 immunocytochemistry, demonstrated significant increases in the ratio of aspiny to spiny neurons within the lesioned striata. Neurochemical measurements confirmed a loss of GABA and substance P-like immunoreactivity yet no significant depletion of somatostatin-like immunoreactivity, neuropeptide Y-like immunoreactivity, or ChAT were seen. The striatal patch-matrix pattern persisted, as demonstrated by acetylcholinesterase activity. The pattern was altered, however, in the chronic animals, such that the matrix zone was significantly reduced, while the total area of patches remained within normal limits. Ultrastructural analysis confirmed axon sparing lesions with neuronal loss and astrogliosis. Pretreatment of 3 monkeys with MK-801, a noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist, blocked striatal QA neurotoxicity. The present results provide an experimental primate model which closely resembles the neuropathologic and neurochemical features of Huntington's disease. These findings further strengthen the possibility that an NMDA receptor-mediated excitotoxic process plays a role in the pathogenesis of this disorder.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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