Neuroinflammatory and behavioural changes in the Atp7B mutant mouse model of Wilson’s disease


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael T. Heneka, MD, Prof. of Clinical Neurosciences, Department of Neurology, Sigmund-Freud-Str. 25, 53127 Bonn, Germany. E-mail:


J. Neurochem. (2011) 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2011.07278.x


Wilson’s disease (WD) is caused by mutations in the copper transporting ATPase 7B (Atp7b). Patients present with liver pathology or behavioural disturbances. Studies on rodent models for WD so far mainly focussed on liver, not brain. The effect of knockout of atp7b on sensori-motor and cognitive behaviour, as well as neuronal number, inflammatory markers, copper and synaptic proteins in brain were studied in so-called toxic milk mice. Copper accumulated in striatum and hippocampus of toxic milk mice, but not in cerebral cortex. Inflammatory markers were increased in striatum and corpus callosum, but not in cerebral cortex and hippocampus, whereas neuronal numbers were unchanged. Toxic milk mice were mildly impaired in the rotarod and cylinder test and unable to acquire spatial memory in the Morris water maze. Despite the latter observation only synaptophysin of a number of synaptic proteins, was altered in the hippocampus of toxic milk mice. In addition to disturbances in neuronal signalling by increased brain copper, inflammation and inflammatory signalling from the periphery to the brain might add to the behavioural disturbances in the toxic milk mice. These mice can be used to evaluate therapeutic strategies to alleviate behavioural disturbances and cerebral pathology observed in WD.