Noma S, Ohya-Shimada W, Kanai M, Ueda K, Nakamura T, Funakoshi H
Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is an autosomal dominant disorder associated with cerebellar neurodegeneration caused by expansion of a CAG repeat in the ataxin-7 gene. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), a pleiotrophic growth factor, displays highly potent neurotrophic activities on cerebellar neurons. A mutant c-met/HGF receptor knockin mouse model has revealed a role for HGF in the postnatal development of the cerebellum. The present study was designed to elucidate the effect of HGF on cerebellar neurodegeneration in a knockin mouse model of SCA7 (SCA7-KI mouse). SCA7-KI mice were crossed with transgenic mice overexpressing HGF (HGF-Tg mice) to produce SCA7-KI/HGF-Tg mice that were used to examine the phenotypic differences following HGF overexpression. The Purkinje cellular degeneration is thought to occur via cell-autonomous and non-cell autonomous mechanisms mediated by a reduction of glutamate transporter levels in Bergmann glia. The Purkinje cellular degeneration and reduced expression of glutamate transporters in the cerebellum of SCA7-KI mice were largely attenuated in the SCA7-KI/HGF-Tg mice. Moreover, phenotypic impairments exhibited by SCA7-KI mice during rotarod tests were alleviated in SCA7-KI/HGF-Tg mice. The bifunctional nature of HGF on both Purkinje cells and Bergmann glia highlight the potential therapeutic utility of this molecule for the treatment of SCA7 and related disorders.