Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative illness, where selective neuronal loss in the brain caused by expression of mutant huntingtin protein leads to motor dysfunction and cognitive decline in addition to peripheral metabolic changes. In this study we confirm our previous observation of impairment of lactate-based hepatic gluconeogenesis in the transgenic HD mouse model R6/2 and determine that the defect manifests very early and progresses in severity with disease development, indicating a potential to explore this defect in a biomarker context. Moreover, R6/2 animals displayed lower blood glucose levels during prolonged fasting compared to wild type animals.
Metabolic dysfunction and mitochondrial involvement are recognised as part of the pathology in Huntington’s Disease (HD). Post-mortem examinations of the striatum from end-stage HD patients have shown a decrease in the in vitro activity of complexes II, III and IV of the electron transport system (ETS). In different models of HD, evidence of enzyme defects have been reported in complex II and complex IV using enzyme assays. However, such assays are highly variable and results have been inconsistent.
We investigated the integrated ETS function ex vivo using a sensitive high-resolution respirometric (HRR) method. The O2 flux in a whole-cell sample combined with the addition of mitochondrial substrates, uncouplers and inhibitors enabled us to accurately quantitate the function of individual mitochondrial complexes in intact mitochondria, while retaining mitochondrial regulation and compensatory mechanisms.
We used HRR to examine the mitochondrial function in striata from 12-week old R6/2 mice expressing exon 1 of human HTT with 130 CAG repeats. A significant reduction in complex II and complex IV flux control ratios was found in the R6/2 mouse striatum at 12 weeks of age compared to controls, confirming previous findings obtained with spectrophotometric enzyme assays.