Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, a bile acid, is neuroprotective in a transgenic animal model of Huntington's disease

C. Dirk Keene, Cecilia M P Rodrigues, Tacjana Eich, Manik S. Chhabra, Clifford J Steer, Walter C Low

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

269 Scopus citations


Huntington's disease (HD) is an untreatable neurological disorder caused by selective and progressive degeneration of the caudate nucleus and putamen of the basal ganglia. Although the etiology of HD pathology is not fully understood, the observed loss of neuronal cells is thought to occur primarily through apoptosis. Furthermore, there is evidence in HD that cell death is mediated through mitochondrial pathways, and mitochondrial deficits are commonly associated with HD. We have previously reported that treatment with tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), a hydrophilic bile acid, prevented neuropathology and associated behavioral deficits in the 3-nitropropionic acid rat model of HD. We therefore examined whether TUDCA would also be neuroprotective in a genetic mouse model of HD. Our results showed that systemically administered TUDCA led to a significant reduction in striatal neuropathology of the R6/2 transgenic HD mouse. Specifically, R6/2 mice began receiving TUDCA at 6 weeks of age and exhibited reduced striatal atrophy, decreased striatal apoptosis, as well as fewer and smaller size ubiquitinated neuronal intranuclear huntingtin inclusions. Moreover, locomotor and sensorimotor deficits were significantly improved in the TUDCA-treated mice. In conclusion, TUDCA is a nontoxic, endogenously produced hydrophilic bile acid that is neuroprotective in a transgenic mouse model of HD and, therefore, may provide a novel and effective treatment in patients with HD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10671-10676
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2002


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