Longitudinal characterization of cognitive and motor deficits in an excitotoxic lesion model of striatal dysfunction in non-human primates

Abstract : As research progresses in the understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying neurode-generative diseases like Huntington's disease (HD) and expands towards preclinical work for the development of new therapies, highly relevant animal models are increasingly needed to test new hypotheses and to validate new therapeutic approaches. In this light, we characterized an excitotoxic lesion model of striatal dysfunction in non-human primates (NHPs) using cognitive and motor behaviour assessment as well as functional imaging and post-mortem anatomical analyses. NHPs received intra-striatal stereotaxic injections of quinolinic acid bilaterally in the caudate nucleus and unilaterally in the left sensorimotor putamen. Post-operative MRI scans showed atrophy of the caudate nucleus and a large ventricular enlargement in all 6 NHPs that correlated with post-mortem measurements. Behavioral analysis showed deficits in 2 analogues of the Wisconsin card sorting test (perseverative behavior) and in an executive task, while no deficits were observed in a visual recognition or an episodic memory task at 6 months following surgery. Spontaneous locomotor activity was decreased after lesion and the incidence of apomorphine-induced dyskinesias was significantly increased at 3 and 6 months following lesion. Positron emission tomography scans obtained at end-point showed a major deficit in glucose metabolism and D2 receptor density limited to the lesioned striatum of all NHPs compared to controls. Post-mortem analyses revealed a significant loss of medium-sized spiny neurons in the striatum, a loss of neurons and fibers in the globus pallidus, a unilateral decrease in dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra and a loss of neurons in the motor and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Overall, we show that this robust NHP model presents specific behavioral (learning, execution and retention of cognitive tests) and metabolic functional deficits that, to the best of our knowledge, are currently not mimicked in any available large animal model of striatal dysfunction. Moreover, we used non-invasive, transla-tional techniques like behavior and imaging to quantify such deficits and found that they correlate to a significant cell loss in the striatum and its main input and output structures. This model can thus significantly contribute to the pre-clinical longitudinal evaluation of the ability of new therapeutic cell, gene or pharma-cotherapy approaches in restoring the functionality of the striatal circuitry.
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Sonia Lavisse, Susannah Williams, Sophie Lecourtois, Nadja van Camp, Martine Guillermier, et al.. Longitudinal characterization of cognitive and motor deficits in an excitotoxic lesion model of striatal dysfunction in non-human primates. Neurobiology of Disease, Elsevier, 2019, 130, pp.104484. ⟨10.1016/j.nbd.2019.104484⟩. ⟨cea-02155538⟩

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