Sensory-motor deficits and neurofilament disorganization in gigaxonin-null mice

Ganay, Thibault; Boizot, Alexia; Burrer, Renaud; Chauvin, Jean Paul; Bomont, Pascale
January 2011
Molecular Neurodegeneration;2011, Vol. 6 Issue 1, p25
Academic Journal
Background: Giant Axonal Neuropathy (GAN) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder with early onset characterized by a severe deterioration of the peripheral and central nervous system, involving both the motor and the sensory tracts and leading to ataxia, speech defect and intellectual disabilities. The broad deterioration of the nervous system is accompanied by a generalized disorganization of the intermediate filaments, including neurofilaments in neurons, but the implication of this defect in disease onset or progression remains unknown. The identification of gigaxonin, the substrate adaptor of an E3 ubiquitin ligase, as the defective protein in GAN allows us to now investigate the crucial role of the gigaxonin-E3 ligase in sustaining neuronal and intermediate filament integrity. To study the mechanisms controlled by gigaxonin in these processes and to provide a relevant model to test the therapeutic approaches under development for GAN, we generated a Gigaxonin-null mouse by gene targeting. Results: We investigated for the first time in Gigaxonin-null mice the deterioration of the motor and sensory functions over time as well as the spatial disorganization of neurofilaments. We showed that gigaxonin depletion in mice induces mild but persistent motor deficits starting at 60 weeks of age in the 129/SvJ-genetic background, while sensory deficits were demonstrated in C57BL/6 animals. In our hands, another gigaxonin-null mouse did not display the early and severe motor deficits reported previously. No apparent neurodegeneration was observed in our knock-out mice, but dysregulation of neurofilaments in proximal and distal axons was massive. Indeed, neurofilaments were not only more abundant but they also showed the abnormal increase in diameter and misorientation that are characteristics of the human pathology. Conclusions: Together, our results show that gigaxonin depletion in mice induces mild motor and sensory deficits but recapitulates the severe neurofilament dysregulation seen in patients. Our model will allow investigation of the role of the gigaxonin-E3 ligase in organizing neurofilaments and may prove useful in understanding the pathological processes engaged in other neurodegenerative disorders characterized by accumulation of neurofilaments and dysfunction of the Ubiquitin Proteasome System, such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.



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