Background: Hydrocephalus is a heterogeneous disorder with multiple etiologies that are not yet fully understood. Animal models have implicated dysfunctional cilia of the ependyma and choroid plexus in the development of the disorder. In this report, we sought to determine the origin of the ventriculomegaly in four Bardet Biedl syndrome (BBS) mutant mouse strains as models of a ciliopathy.
Methods: Evans Blue dye was injected into the lateral ventricle of wild- type and BBS mutant mice to determine whether obstruction of intra- or extra-ventricular CSF flow contributed to ventriculomegaly. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was used to examine the ultrastructure of the choroid plexus, subfornical organ (SFO), subcommisural organ (SCO), and ventricular ependyma to evaluate their ultrastructure and the morphology of their primary and motile cilia.
Results and discussion: No obstruction of intra- or extra-ventricular CSF flow was observed, implying a communicating form of hydrocephalus in BBS mutant mice. TEM analyses of the mutants showed no evidence of choroidal papillomas or breakdown of the blood:CSF barrier. In contrast, structural defects were observed in a subpopulation of cilia lining the choroid plexus, SFO, and ventricular ependyma. These included disruptions of the microtubular structure of the axoneme and the presence of electron-dense vesicular-like material along the ciliary shaft and at the tips of cilia.
Conclusions: Abnormalities in cilia structure and function have the potential to influence ciliary intraflagellar transport (IFT), cilia maintenance, protein trafficking, and regulation of CSF production. Ciliary structural defects are the only consistent pathological features associated with CSF-related structures in BBS mutant mice. These defects are observed from an early age, and may contribute to the underlying pathophysiology of ventriculomegaly.