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Models of Huntington disease (HD) recapitulate some neuropathological features of the disease. However, a global natural history of neuroanatomy in a mouse expressing full-length huntingtin has not been conducted. We investigated neuropathological changes in the YAC128 murine model of HD using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Structures affected in human HD are reduced in the YAC128 mice both in absolute terms and in terms of percentage of brain volume. Structures resistant to degeneration in HD, including the cerebellum and hippocampus, are spared in the YAC128 mice. Segmentation of major white matter structures confirms specific, progressive, loss of white matter in HD. In parallel with their specific volume loss, the YAC128 mice also show progressive increases in total ventricular volume, similarly to human HD patients. Cortical atrophy in the YAC128 mice is layer specific, which is the observed pattern of cortical loss in human HD patients. Finally, we have used a classification tree analysis to maximize separation of genotypes using all 62 structure volumes in an objective manner. This analysis demonstrates that sub-cortical gray matter structures (striatum, globus pallidus, thalamus) and cerebral white matter structures (corpus callosum, anterior commisure, fimbria) are the most discriminatory. The high resolution of the current study enables robust measurement of subtle early pathological changes. The use of mice furthermore enables us to address questions difficult to address in humans, including the sequential changes of HD from baseline and the relation between MRI and stereological measures.

Original publication




Journal article


Neurobiol Dis

Publication Date





257 - 265


Animals, Atrophy, Brain, Cerebellum, Disease Models, Animal, Disease Progression, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Huntingtin Protein, Huntington Disease, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Mice, Mice, Transgenic, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Nuclear Proteins