Huntington's disease (HD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease in which striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs) are lost. Neuronal replacement therapies aim to replace MSNs through striatal transplantation of donor MSN progenitors, which successfully improve HD-like deficits in rat HD models and have provided functional improvement in patients. Transplants in mouse models of HD are more variable and have lower cell survival than equivalent rat grafts, yet mice constitute the majority of transgenic HD models. Improving the quality and consistency of mouse transplants would open up access to this wider range of rodent models and facilitate research to increase understanding of graft mechanisms, which is essential to progress transplantation as a therapy for HD. Here we determined how donor age, cell preparation, and donor/host strain choice influenced the quality of primary embryonic grafts in quinolinic acid lesion mouse models of HD. Both a within-strain (W-S) and a between-strain (B-S) donor/host paradigm were used to compare transplants of donor tissues derived from mice at embryonic day E12 and E14 prepared either as dissociated suspensions or as minimally manipulated tissue pieces (TP). Good graft survival was observed, although graft volume and cellular composition were highly variable. The effect of cell preparation on grafts differed significantly depending on donor age, with E14 cell suspensions yielding larger grafts compared to TP. Conversely, TP were more effective when derived from E12 donor tissue. A W-S model produced larger grafts with greater MSN content, and while high levels of activated microglia were observed across all groups, a greater number was found in B-S transplants. In summary, we show that the effect of tissue preparation on graft morphology is contingent on the age of donor tissue used. The presence of microglial activation in all groups highlights the host immune response as an important consideration in mouse transplantation.
Keywords: Huntington's disease; cell transplantation; medium spiny neurons; mouse models; primary embryonic tissue; striatal grafts.