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A. Scott Emmert, Shawn M. Vuong, Crystal Shula, Diana Lindquist, Weihong Yuan, Yueh-Chiang Hu, Francesco T. Mangano and June Goto

OBJECTIVE

Emergence of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing provides a robust method for gene targeting in a variety of cell types, including fertilized rat embryos. The authors used this method to generate a transgenic rat L1cam knockout model of X-linked hydrocephalus (XLH) with human genetic etiology. The object of this study was to use diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in studying perivascular white matter tract injury in the rat model and to characterize its pathological definition in histology.

METHODS

Two guide RNAs designed to disrupt exon 4 of the L1cam gene on the X chromosome were injected into Sprague-Dawley rat embryos. Following embryo transfer into pseudopregnant females, rats were born and their DNA was sequenced for evidence of L1cam mutation. The mutant and control wild-type rats were monitored for growth and hydrocephalus phenotypes. Their macro- and microbrain structures were studied with T2-weighted MRI, DTI, immunohistochemistry, and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

RESULTS

The authors successfully obtained 2 independent L1cam knockout alleles and 1 missense mutant allele. Hemizygous male mutants from all 3 alleles developed hydrocephalus and delayed development. Significant reductions in fractional anisotropy and axial diffusivity were observed in the corpus callosum, external capsule, and internal capsule at 3 months of age. The mutant rats did not show reactive gliosis by then but exhibited hypomyelination and increased extracellular fluid in the corpus callosum.

CONCLUSIONS

The CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing system can be harnessed to efficiently disrupt the L1cam gene in rats for creation of a larger XLH animal model than previously available. This study provides evidence that the early pathology of the periventricular white matter tracts in hydrocephalus can be detected in DTI. Furthermore, TEM-based morphometric analysis of the corpus callosum elucidates the underlying cytopathological changes accompanying hydrocephalus-derived variations in DTI. The CRISPR/Cas9 system offers opportunities to explore novel surgical and imaging techniques on larger mammalian models.

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Danielle S. Goulding, R. Caleb Vogel, Chirayu D. Pandya, Crystal Shula, John C. Gensel, Francesco T. Mangano, June Goto and Brandon A. Miller

OBJECTIVE

The authors sought to determine if hydrocephalus caused a proinflammatory state within white matter as is seen in many other forms of neonatal brain injury. Common causes of hydrocephalus (such as trauma, infection, and hemorrhage) are inflammatory insults themselves and therefore confound understanding of how hydrocephalus itself affects neuroinflammation. Recently, a novel animal model of hydrocephalus due to a genetic mutation in the Ccdc39 gene has been developed in mice. In this model, ciliary dysfunction leads to early-onset ventriculomegaly, astrogliosis, and reduced myelination. Because this model of hydrocephalus is not caused by an antecedent proinflammatory insult, it was utilized to study the effect of hydrocephalus on inflammation within the white matter of the corpus callosum.

METHODS

A Meso Scale Discovery assay was used to measure levels of proinflammatory cytokines in whole brain from animals with and without hydrocephalus. Immunohistochemistry was used to measure macrophage activation and NG2 expression within the white matter of the corpus callosum in animals with and without hydrocephalus.

RESULTS

In this model of hydrocephalus, levels of cytokines throughout the brain revealed a more robust increase in classic proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin [IL]–1β, CXCL1) than in immunomodulatory cytokines (IL-10). Increased numbers of macrophages were found within the corpus callosum. These macrophages were polarized toward a proinflammatory phenotype as assessed by higher levels of CD86, a marker of proinflammatory macrophages, compared to CD206, a marker for antiinflammatory macrophages. There was extensive structural damage to the corpus callosum of animals with hydrocephalus, and an increase in NG2-positive cells.

CONCLUSIONS

Hydrocephalus without an antecedent proinflammatory insult induces inflammation and tissue injury in white matter. Future studies with this model will be useful to better understand the effects of hydrocephalus on neuroinflammation and progenitor cell development. Antiinflammatory therapy for diseases that cause hydrocephalus may be a powerful strategy to reduce tissue damage.