We have analyzed a mouse model of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease 2E (CMT2E) harboring a heterozygous p.Asn98Ser (p.N98S) Nefl mutation, whose human counterpart results in a severe, early-onset neuropathy. Behavioral, electrophysiological, and pathological analyses were done on separate cohorts of NeflN98S/+ mutant mice and their wild type Nefl+/+ littermates between 8 and 48 weeks of age. The motor performance of NeflN98S/+ mice, as evidenced by altered balance and gait measures, was impaired at every age examined (from 6 to 25 weeks of age). At all times examined, myelinated axons were smaller and contained markedly fewer neurofilaments in NeflN98S/+ mice, in all examined aspects of the PNS, from the nerve roots to the distal ends of the sciatic and caudal nerves. Similarly, the myelinated axons in the various tracts of the spinal cord and in the optic nerves were smaller and contained fewer neurofilaments in mutant mice. The myelinated axons in both the PNS and the CNS of mutant mice had relatively thicker myelin sheaths. The amplitude and the nerve conduction velocity of the caudal nerves were reduced in proportion with the diminished sizes of myelinated axons. Conspicuous aggregations of neurofilaments were only seen in primary sensory and motor neurons, and were largely confined to the cell bodies and proximal axons. There was evidence of axonal degeneration and regeneration of myelinated axons, mostly in distal nerves. In summary, the p.N98S mutation causes a profound reduction of neurofilaments in the myelinated axons of the PNS and CNS, resulting in substantially reduced axonal diameters, particularly of large myelinated axons, and distal axon loss in the PNS.
Keywords: Axonal caliber; Behavioral testing; CMT; Nerve conduction; Neurofilament; Neuropathy.
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