The cognitive dysfunctions of Down Syndrome (DS) individuals are the most disabling alterations caused by the trisomy of human chromosome 21 (HSA21). In trisomic Ts65Dn mice, a genetic model for DS, the overexpression of HSA21 homologous genes has been associated with strong visuo-spatial cognitive alterations, ascribed to hippocampal dysfunction. In the present study, we evaluated whether the normalization of the expression levels of Dyrk1A (Dual specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation-regulated kinase 1A), a candidate gene for DS, might correct hippocampal defects in Ts65Dn mice. In the hippocampus of 2 month-old Ts65Dn mice, such normalization was achieved through the stereotaxical injection of adeno-associated viruses containing a short hairpin RNA against Dyrk1A (AAV2/1-shDyrk1A) and a luciferase reporter gene. The injected hippocampi were efficiently transduced, as shown by bioluminescence in vivo imaging, luciferase activity quantification and immunohistochemical analysis. At the molecular level, viral infusion allowed the normalization of the targeted Dyrk1A expression, as well as of the key players of the MAPK/CREB pathway. The electrophysiological recordings of hippocampal slices from Ts65Dn mice injected with AAV2/1-shDyrk1A displayed attenuation of the synaptic plasticity defects of trisomic mice. In contrast, contralateral hippocampal injection with an AAV2/1 control virus containing a scrambled sequence, showed neither the normalization of Dyrk1A levels nor changes of synaptic plasticity. In the Morris water maze task, although long-term consolidation of the task was not achieved, treated Ts65Dn mice displayed initially a normalized thigmotactic behavior, similar to euploid littermates, indicating the partial improvement in their hippocampal-dependent search strategy. Taken together, these results show Dyrk1A as a critical player in the pathophysiology of DS and define Dyrk1A as a therapeutic target in adult trisomic mice.
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