Spinocerebellar ataxia type 8 (SCA8) patients typically have a slowly progressive, adult-onset ataxia. SCA8 is dominantly inherited and is caused by large CTG repeat expansions in the untranslated antisense RNA of the Kelch-like 1 gene (KLHL1), but the molecular mechanism through which this expansion leads to disease is still unknown. To more fully characterize the underlying molecular mechanisms involved in SCA8, we developed a mouse model in which Klhl1 is deleted in either all tissues or is deleted specifically in Purkinje cells only. We found that mice that are either homozygous or heterozygous for the Klhl1 deletion have significant gait abnormalities at an early age and develop a significant loss of motor coordination by 24 weeks of age. This loss progresses more rapidly in homozygous knock-outs. Mice with Klhl1 specifically deleted in only Purkinje cells had a loss of motor coordination that was almost identical to the total-tissue deletion mice. Finally, we found significant Purkinje cell dendritic deficits, as measured by the thickness of the molecular layer, in all mice in which Klhl1 was deleted (both total and Purkinje cell-specific deletions) and an intermediate reduction in molecular layer thickness in mice with reduced levels of Klhl1 expression (heterozygous deletions). The results from this mouse model show that even a partial loss of Klhl1 function leads to degeneration of Purkinje cell function and indicates that loss of KLHL1 activity is likely to play a significant part in the underlying pathophysiology of SCA8.
- Purkinje cell