Circadian Dysfunction in the Q175 Model of Huntington's Disease: Network Analysis

J Neurosci Res. 2019 Dec;97(12):1606-1623. doi: 10.1002/jnr.24505. Epub 2019 Jul 29.


Disturbances in sleep/wake cycle are a common complaint of individuals with Huntington's disease (HD) and are displayed by HD mouse models. The underlying mechanisms, including the possible role of the circadian timing system, have been the topic of a number of recent studies. The (z)Q175 mouse is a knock-in model in which the human exon 1 sequence of the huntingtin gene is inserted into the mouse DNA with approximately 190 CAG repeats. Among the numerous models available, the heterozygous Q175 offers strong construct validity with a single copy of the mutation, genetic precision of the insertion and control of mutation copy number. In this review, we will summarize the evidence that this model exhibits disrupted diurnal and circadian rhythms in locomotor activity. We found overwhelming evidence for autonomic dysfunction including blunted daily rhythms in heart rate and core body temperature (CBT), reduced heart rate variability, and almost a complete failure of the sympathetic arm of the autonomic nervous system to function during the baroreceptor reflex. Mechanistically, the Q175 mouse model exhibits deficits in the neural output of the central circadian clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus along with an enhancement of at least one type of potassium current in these neurons. Finally, we report a novel network analysis examining the phase coherence between activity, CBT, and cardiovascular measures. Such analyses found that even young Q175 mutants (heterozygous or homozygous) show coherence degradation, and suggests that loss of phase coherence is a variable that should be considered as a possible biomarker for HD.

Keywords: Huntington's disease; Q175; autonomic nervous system; cardiovascular function; circadian rhythms; phase coherence; suprachiasmatic nucleus.