Transgenic Tg(PG14) mice express a mutant prion protein containing 14 octapeptide repeats, whose human homologue is associated with an inherited prion dementia. These mice develop a progressive neurological disorder characterized by ataxia and cerebellar atrophy, with massive apoptotic degeneration of granule neurons. Bax, a proapoptotic gene of the Bcl-2 family, plays a key role in regulating cell death in the nervous system. To analyze the role of Bax in the Tg(PG14) phenotype, we crossed Tg(PG14) mice with Bax -/- mice to obtain Tg(PG14)/Bax -/- offspring. Bax deletion effectively rescued cerebellar granule neurons from apoptosis, implying that these cells die via a Bax-dependent process. Surprisingly, however, the age at which symptoms began and the duration of the clinical phase of the illness were not altered in Tg(PG14) Bax -/- mice. In addition, Bax deletion failed to prevent shrinkage of the molecular layer of the cerebellum and loss of synaptophysin-positive synaptic endings. Our analysis indicates that synaptic loss makes a critical contribution to the Tg(PG14) phenotype. These results provide insights into the pathogenesis of prion diseases and have important implications for the treatment of these disorders.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jan 4 2005|
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