Adenosine A1 receptor (A1R) stimulation exerts beneficial effects in response to various insults to the brain and, although it was found neuroprotective in a lesional model of Huntington's disease (HD), the features of this receptor in genetic models of HD have never been explored. In the present study we characterized the expression, affinity and functional effects of A1Rs in R6/2 mice (the most widely used transgenic model of HD) and in a cellular model of HD. Binding studies revealed that the density of A1Rs was significantly reduced in the cortex and the striatum of R6/2 mice compared to age-matched wild-type (WT), while receptor affinity was unchanged. The selective A1R agonist cyclopentyladenosine (CPA, 300nM) was significantly more effective in reducing synaptic transmission in corticostriatal slices from symptomatic R6/2 than in age-matched WT mice. Such an effect was due to a stronger inhibition of glutamate release from the pre-synaptic terminal. The different functional activities of A1Rs in HD mice were associated also to a different intracellular signaling pathway involved in the synaptic effect of CPA. In fact, while the PKA pathway was involved in both genotypes, p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580 partially prevented synaptic effects of CPA in R6/2, but not in WT, mice; moreover, CPA differently modulated the phosphorylation status of p38 in the two genotypes. In vitro studies confirmed a different behavior of A1Rs in HD: CPA (100 nM for 5h) modulated cell viability in STHdh(Q111/Q111) (mhttHD cells), without affecting the viability of STHdh(Q7/Q7) (wthtt cells). This effect was prevented by the application of SB203580. Our results demonstrate that in the presence of the HD mutation A1Rs undergo profound changes in terms of expression, pharmacology and functional activity. These changes have to be taken in due account when considering A1Rs as a potential therapeutic target for this disease.
Keywords: Adenosine A(1) receptors; Huntington's disease; R6/2 mice; Striatum.
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