Adeno-associated virus-mediated expression of β-hexosaminidase prevents neuronal loss in the sandhoff mouse brain

Timothy J. Sargeant, Susan Wang, Josephine Bradley, Nicolas J C Smith, Animesh A. Raha, Rosamund McNair, Robin J. Ziegler, Seng H. Cheng, Timothy M. Cox, Maria Begoña Cachón-González

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Sandhoff disease, a GM2 gangliosidosis caused by a deficiency in β-hexosaminidase, is characterized by progressive neurodegeneration. Although loss of neurons in association with lysosomal storage of glycosphingolipids occurs in patients with this disease, the molecular pathways that lead to the accompanying neurological defects are unclear. Using an authentic murine model of GM2 gangliosidosis, we examined the pattern of neuronal loss in the central nervous system and investigated the effects of gene transfer using recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors expressing β-hexosaminidase subunits (rAAV2/1-Hex). In 4-month-old Sandhoff mice with neurological deficits, cells staining positively for the apoptotic signature in the TUNEL reaction were found in the ventroposterior medial and ventroposterior lateral (VPM/VPL) nuclei of the thalamus. There was progressive loss of neuronal density in this region with age. Comparable loss of neuronal density was identified in the lateral vestibular nucleus of the brainstem and a small but statistically significant loss was present in the ventral spinal cord. Loss of neurons was not detected in other regions that were analysed. Administration of rAAV2/1-Hex into the brain of Sandhoff mice prevented the decline in neuronal density in the VPM/VPL. Preservation of neurons in the VPM/VPL was variable at the humane endpoint in treated animals, but correlated directly with increased lifespan. Loss of neurons was localized to only a few regions in the Sandhoff brain and was prevented by rAAV-mediated transfer of β-hexosaminidase gene function at considerable distances from the site of vector administration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberddr364
Pages (from-to)4371-4380
Number of pages10
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Nov 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

Cite this