Modeling gain-of-function and loss-of-function components of SPAST-based hereditary spastic paraplegia using transgenic mice

Hum Mol Genet. 2022 Jun 4;31(11):1844-1859. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddab367.


Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) is a disease in which dieback degeneration of corticospinal tracts, accompanied by axonal swellings, leads to gait deficiencies. SPG4-HSP, the most common form of the disease, results from mutations of human spastin gene (SPAST), which is the gene that encodes spastin, a microtubule-severing protein. The lack of a vertebrate model that recapitulates both the etiology and symptoms of SPG4-HSP has stymied the development of effective therapies for the disease. hSPAST-C448Y mice, which express human mutant spastin at the ROSA26 locus, display corticospinal dieback and gait deficiencies but not axonal swellings. On the other hand, mouse spastin gene (Spast)-knockout (KO) mice display axonal swellings but not corticospinal dieback or gait deficiencies. One possibility is that reduced spastin function, resulting in axonal swellings, is not the cause of the disease but exacerbates the toxic effects of the mutant protein. To explore this idea, Spast-KO and hSPAST-C448Y mice were crossbred, and the offspring were compared with the parental lines via histological and behavioral analyses. The crossbred animals displayed axonal swellings as well as earlier onset, worsened gait deficiencies and corticospinal dieback compared with the hSPAST-C448Y mouse. These results, together with observations on changes in histone deacetylases 6 and tubulin modifications in the axon, indicate that each of these three transgenic mouse lines is valuable for investigating a different component of the disease pathology. Moreover, the crossbred mice are the best vertebrate model to date for testing potential therapies for SPG4-HSP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / genetics
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Gain of Function Mutation
  • Humans
  • Loss of Function Mutation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation
  • Spastic Paraplegia, Hereditary*
  • Spastin* / genetics


  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • Spastin
  • SPAST protein, human