Enhanced cerebral branched-chain amino acid metabolism in R6/2 mouse model of Huntington's disease

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Huntington's disease (HD) is a hereditary and fatal disease causing profound neurodegeneration. Deficits in cerebral energy and neurotransmitter metabolism have been suggested to play a central role in the neuronal dysfunction and death associated with HD. The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, isoleucine and valine, are important for cerebral nitrogen homeostasis, neurotransmitter recycling and can be utilized as energy substrates in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Reduced levels of BCAAs in HD have been validated by several reports. However, it is still unknown how cerebral BCAA metabolism is regulated in HD. Here we investigate the metabolism of leucine and isoleucine in the R6/2 mouse model of HD. Acutely isolated cerebral cortical and striatal slices of control and R6/2 mice were incubated in media containing 15N- or 13C-labeled leucine or isoleucine and slice extracts were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to determine isotopic enrichment of derived metabolites. Elevated BCAA transamination was found from incubations with [15N]leucine and [15N]isoleucine, in both cerebral cortical and striatal slices of R6/2 mice compared to controls. Metabolism of [U-13C]leucine and [U-13C]isoleucine, entering oxidative metabolism as acetyl CoA, was maintained in R6/2 mice. However, metabolism of [U-13C]isoleucine, entering the TCA cycle as succinyl CoA, was elevated in both cerebral cortical and striatal slices of R6/2 mice, suggesting enhanced metabolic flux via this anaplerotic pathway. To support the metabolic studies, expression of enzymes in the BCAA metabolic pathway was assessed from a proteomic resource. Several enzymes related to BCAA metabolism were found to exhibit augmented expression in the R6/2 brain, particularly related to isoleucine metabolism, suggesting an increase in the BCAA metabolic machinery. Our results show that the capacity for cerebral BCAA metabolism, predominantly of isoleucine, is amplified in the R6/2 brain and indicates that perturbations in cerebral BCAA homeostasis could have functional consequences for HD pathology.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2449-2461
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 214465572