Maternal choline supplementation differentially alters the basal forebrain cholinergic system of young-adult Ts65Dn and disomic mice

J Comp Neurol. 2014 Apr 15;522(6):1390-410. doi: 10.1002/cne.23492.


Down syndrome (DS), trisomy 21, is a multifaceted condition marked by intellectual disability and early presentation of Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathological lesions including degeneration of the basal forebrain cholinergic neuron (BFCN) system. Although DS is diagnosable during gestation, there is no treatment option for expectant mothers or DS individuals. Using the Ts65Dn mouse model of DS that displays age-related degeneration of the BFCN system, we investigated the effects of maternal choline supplementation on the BFCN system in adult Ts65Dn mice and disomic (2N) littermates at 4.3-7.5 months of age. Ts65Dn dams were maintained on a choline-supplemented diet (5.1 g/kg choline chloride) or a control, unsupplemented diet with adequate amounts of choline (1 g/kg choline chloride) from conception until weaning of offspring; post weaning, offspring were fed the control diet. Mice were transcardially perfused with paraformaldehyde, and brains were sectioned and immunolabeled for choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) or p75-neurotrophin receptor (p75(NTR) ). BFCN number and size, the area of the regions, and the intensity of hippocampal labeling were determined. Ts65Dn-unsupplemented mice displayed region- and immunolabel-dependent increased BFCN number, larger areas, smaller BFCNs, and overall increased hippocampal ChAT intensity compared with 2N unsupplemented mice. These effects were partially normalized by maternal choline supplementation. Taken together, the results suggest a developmental imbalance in the Ts65Dn BFCN system. Early maternal-diet choline supplementation attenuates some of the genotype-dependent alterations in the BFCN system, suggesting this naturally occurring nutrient as a treatment option for pregnant mothers with knowledge that their offspring is trisomy 21.

Keywords: Down syndrome; choline acetyltransferase; diagonal band; medial septum; nucleus basalis; p75 neurotrophin receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Choline / administration & dosage*
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Cholinergic Fibers / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Down Syndrome / diet therapy
  • Down Syndrome / genetics
  • Down Syndrome / pathology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Pregnancy
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism*
  • Prosencephalon / pathology
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism


  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • TNFRSF16 protein, mouse
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Choline