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Riluzole prolongs survival time and alters nuclear inclusion formation in a transgenic mouse model of Huntington's disease



Glutamate excitotoxicity has been suggested to contribute to the pathogenesis of Huntington's disease (HD). Riluzole is a substance with glutamate antagonistic properties that is used for neuroprotective treatment in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and which is currently tested in clinical trials for treatment of HD. R6/2 transgenic mice, which express exon 1 of the human HD gene with an expanded CAG triplet repeat, serve as a well-characterized mouse model for HD with progressing neurological abnormalities and limited survival. We treated R6/2 HD transgenic mice with riluzole orally beginning at a presymptomatic stage until death to investigate its potential neuroprotective effects in this mouse model and found that survival time in the riluzole group was significantly increased in comparison to placebo-treated transgenic controls. Additionally, the progressive weight loss was delayed and significantly reduced by riluzole treatment; behavioral testing of motor coordination and spontaneous locomotor activity, however, showed no statistically significant differences. We also examined the formation of the HD characteristic neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NII) immunohistologically. At a late disease stage, striatal NII from riluzole-treated transgenic mice showed profound changes in ubiquitination, i.e., NII were less ubiquitinated and surrounded by ubiquitinated micro-aggregates. Staining with antibodies directed against the mutated huntingtin revealed no significant difference in this component of NII. Taken together, these data suggest that riluzole is a promising candidate for neuroprotective treatment in human HD. © 2002 Movement Disorder Society