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Differences in white matter detected by ex vivo 9.4T MRI are associated with axonal changes in the R6/1 model of Huntington’s Disease

Casella, Chiara, Kelly, B., Murillo Bartolome, Alvaro ORCID:, Mills-Smith, B., Parker, G. D., Von Ruhland, Chris, Syed, Yasir Ahmed ORCID:, Dion, Vincent ORCID:, Rosser, Anne E. ORCID:, Metzler-Baddeley, Claudia ORCID:, Jones, Derek K. ORCID: and Lelos, Mariah J. ORCID: 2023. Differences in white matter detected by ex vivo 9.4T MRI are associated with axonal changes in the R6/1 model of Huntington’s Disease. [Online]. BioRXiv: BioRXiv. Available at:

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White matter (WM) volume loss has been reported in people with Huntington’s disease (HD), but the cellular basis of this deficit remains to be elucidated. To address this, we assessed ex vivo WM microstructure in the transgenic R6/1 mouse model of HD with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and studied the neurobiological basis of the MRI brain signals with histological and electron microscopy analyses in a separate cohort of age- and sex-matched mice. Differences in the macromolecular proton fraction (MPF) from quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT) as a proxy myelin measure, and the intra-axonal signal fraction (FR) from the composite hindered and restricted model of diffusion (CHARMED) as a proxy marker of axon density, were assessed alongside diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) parameters. A tractometry approach was employed to inspect region-specific differences across the corpus callosum (CC). Furthermore, voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) were used to explore brain-wise WM macro- and microstructure abnormalities. To gain insight into disease-associated impairments in attentional and visuospatial processing, a third cohort of age-matched mice was assessed with the 5-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT). We report cognitive impairments in R6/1 mice and, by evaluating MRI and light and electron microscopy results, we show that this HD mouse model presents disruptions in axonal morphology (i.e. less complex, thinner axons) and organization (i.e. more densely packed axons). Furthermore, we show that, at least early in disease progression, R6/1 mice present a reduction in the expression or content of myelin-associated proteins without significant alterations in the structure of myelin sheaths. Finally, our findings indicate that neuroinflammation-driven glial and axonal swelling might also affect this mouse model early in disease progression. Crucially, we demonstrate the potential of FR, an in vivo estimate of axon density, as a novel MRI biomarker of HD-associated changes in WM microstructure.

Item Type: Website Content
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)
Publisher: BioRXiv
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2024 12:09

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