Dendritic spine pathology and deficits in experience-dependent dendritic plasticity in R6/1 Huntington's disease transgenic mice

Tara L. Spires*, Helen E. Grote, Sylvia Garry, Patricia M. Cordery, Anton Van Dellen, Colin Blakemore, Anthony J. Hannan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Citations (Scopus)


Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by a CAG repeat expansion coding for an expanded polyglutamine tract in the huntingtin protein. Dendritic abnormalities occur in human HD patients and in several transgenic mouse models of the disease. In this study, we examine, for the first time, dendrite and spine pathology in the R6/1 mouse model of HD, which mimics neurodegeneration seen in human HD. Enriching the environment of HD transgenic mice delays the onset of symptoms, so we also examine the effects of enrichment on dendrite pathology. Golgi-impregnated tissue from symptomatic R6/1 HD mice reveals a decrease in dendritic spine density and dendritic spine length in striatal medium spiny neurons and cortical pyramidal neurons. HD also causes a specific reduction in the proportion of bifurcated dendritic spines on basai dendrites of cortical pyramidal neurons. No differences in soma size, recurving distal dendrites, or dendritic branching were observed. Although home-cage environmental enrichment from 1 to 8 months of age increases spine density in wild-type mice, it has no effect on the spine pathology in HD mice. These results show that dendritic spine pathology in R6/1 HD mice resembles degenerative changes seen in human HD and in other transgenic mouse models of the disease. We thus provide further evidence that the HD mutation disrupts the connectivity in both neostriatum and cerebral cortex, which will contribute to motor and cognitive disease symptoms. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Huntington's disease pathology interferes with the normal plastic response of dendritic spines to environmental enrichment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2799-2807
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental enrichment
  • Medium spiny neurons
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Single-section Golgi


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