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Keywords:

  • aspartate;
  • corticostriatal;
  • GABA;
  • glutamate;
  • neurodegeneration

Abstract

Huntington's disease is an autosomal dominant disease which presents with striatal and cortical degeneration causing involuntary movements, dementia and emotional changes. We employed 16-week-old transgenic Huntington mice (R6/1 line developed by Bates and coworkers) that express exon 1 of the mutant human Huntington gene with 115 CAG triplet repeats. At this age, R6/1 mice do not exhibit an overt neurological phenotype nor any striatal neuronal loss. Using microdialysis, we monitored basal and intrastriatal N-methyl d-aspartate (NMDA, 100 µm, 15 min)- and KCl (100 mm, 15 min)-induced increases in local aspartate, glutamate and GABA release in halothane-anaesthetized transgenic mice and wild-type controls. Basal striatal dialysate glutamate levels were reduced by 42% in R6/1 mice whilst aspartate and GABA levels did not differ from those observed in control mice. Intrastriatal NMDA was associated with significantly greater aspartate (at 15 min) and GABA (at 30 min) levels in the R6/1 mice compared to controls, whilst glutamate release rapidly increased to the same extent in both groups. Intrastriatal KCl was associated with enhanced increases (30 min) in local aspartate and glutamate release in the R6/1 mice above those observed in controls whilst the rapid increase (15 min) in GABA release was similar in both groups. The results provide compelling evidence for specific alterations in both basal, as well as NMDA- and KCl-induced, release of striatal amino acid neurotransmitters in this transgenic model of Huntington's disease, even in the absence of manifest neurodegeneration.