We describe an inducible genetic model for degeneration of midbrain dopaminergic neurons in adults. In previous studies, knock-in mice expressing hypersensitive M2 domain Leu9'Ser (L9'S) alpha4 nicotinic receptors (nAChR) at near-normal levels displayed dominant neonatal lethality and dopaminergic deficits in embryonic midbrain, because the hypersensitive nAChR is excitotoxic. However, heterozygous L9'S mice that retain the neomycin resistance cassette (neo) in a neighboring intron express low levels of the mutant allele (approximately 25% of normal levels), and these neo-intact mice are therefore viable and fertile. The neo cassette is flanked by loxP sites. In adult animals, we locally injected helper-dependent adenovirus (HDA) expressing cre recombinase. Local excision of the neo cassette, via cre-mediated recombination, was verified by genomic analysis. In L9'S HDA-cre injected animals, locomotion was reduced both under baseline conditions and after amphetamine application. There was no effect in L9'S HDA-control treated animals or in wild-type (WT) littermates injected with either virus. Immunocytochemical analyses revealed marked losses (> 70%) of dopaminergic neurons in L9'S HDA-cre injected mice compared to controls. At 20-33 days postinjection in control animals, the coexpressed marker gene, yellow fluorescent protein (YFP), was expressed in many neurons and few glial cells near the injection, emphasizing the neurotropic utility of the HDA. Thus, HDA-mediated gene transfer into adult midbrain induced sufficient functional expression of cre in dopaminergic neurons to allow for postnatal deletion of neo. This produced increased L9'S mutant nAChR expression, which in turn led to nicotinic cholinergic excitotoxicity in dopaminergic neurons.
View details for DOI 10.1096/fj.05-5497com
View details for Web of Science ID 000240157700016
View details for PubMedID 16675851