Loss of NEIL1 causes defects in olfactory function in mice

Neurobiol Aging. 2015 Feb;36(2):1007-12. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2014.09.026. Epub 2014 Oct 14.


Oxidative DNA damage accumulation has been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. The base excision repair pathway is a primary responder to oxidative DNA damage. Effects of loss of base excision repair on normal brain function is a relatively nascent area of research that needs further exploration for better understanding of related brain diseases. Recently, we found that loss of a versatile DNA glycosylase endonuclease 8-like 1 (NEIL1) causes deficits in spatial memory retention using the Morris water maze test. Furthermore, we found that there is a significant loss of NEIL1 enzyme levels and its activity in postmortem Alzheimer's disease brains. Based on the Allen Brain Atlas in situ hybridization data, the expression levels of Neil1 messenger RNA are higher in the olfactory bulb compared with other areas of the brain. Olfaction in mice is a central brain function that involves many central nervous system pathways. Here, we studied the effect of complete loss of Neil1 gene on olfactory function. We explored olfactory function in mice with 3 different behavioral tests namely, olfactory sensitivity, performance, and buried food tests. Neil1(-/-) mice performed poorly compared with wild-type mice in all 3 tests. Our data indicate that loss of Neil1 causes olfactory function deficits supporting our previous findings and that normal brain function requires robust DNA repair.

Keywords: Aging, smell; Base excision repair; DNA repair; Glycosylase; NEIL1; Olfactory sense; Oxidative DNA damage; Oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage / genetics
  • DNA Glycosylases / physiology*
  • DNA Repair / genetics
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Olfaction Disorders / genetics*
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • Smell / genetics*


  • DNA Glycosylases
  • Neil1 protein, mouse