BBA - Molecular Basis of Disease (v.1832, #9)

Special issue: Animal models of disease by M. Paul Murphy (1361).

The incidence of diseases increases rapidly with age, accompanied by progressive deteriorations of physiological functions in organisms. Aging-associated diseases are sporadic but mostly inevitable complications arising from senescence. Senescence is often considered the antithesis of early development, but yet there may be factors and mechanisms in common between these two phenomena over the dynamic process of aging. The association between early development and late-onset disease with advancing age is thought to come from a consequence of developmental plasticity, the phenomenon by which one genotype can give rise to a range of physiologically and/or morphologically adaptive states in response to different environmental or genetic perturbations. On the one hand, we hypothesized that the future aging process can be predictive based on adaptivity during the early developmental period. Modulating the thresholds of adaptive plasticity by chemical genetic approaches, we have been investigating whether any relationship exists between the regulatory mechanisms that function in early development and in senescence using the zebrafish (Danio rerio), a small freshwater fish and a useful model animal for genetic studies. We have successfully conducted experiments to isolate zebrafish mutants expressing apparently altered senescence phenotypes during embryogenesis (“embryonic senescence”), subsequently showing shortened lifespan in adulthoods. We anticipate that previously uncharacterized developmental genes may mediate the aging process and play a pivotal role in senescence. On the other hand, unexpected senescence-related genes might also be involved in the early developmental process and regulation. The ease of manipulation using the zebrafish system allows us to conduct an exhaustive exploration of novel genes and small molecular compounds that can be linked to the senescence phenotype, and thereby facilitates searching for the evolutionary and developmental origins of aging in vertebrates. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
Keywords: Aging; Evolution; Development; Disease; Rejuvenation; Zebrafish;

Zebrafish embryo as a tool to study tumor/endothelial cell cross-talk by Chiara Tobia; Giuseppina Gariano; Giulia De Sena; Marco Presta (1371-1377).
Tumor/endothelial cell cross-talk plays a pivotal role in the growth, neovascularization and metastatic dissemination of human cancer. Recent observations have shown that the teleost zebrafish (Danio rerio) may represent a powerful experimental platform in cancer research. Various tumor models have been established in zebrafish adults, juveniles, and embryos and novel genetic tools and high resolution in vivo imaging techniques have been exploited. In particular, grafting of mammalian tumor cells in zebrafish embryo body may simulate early stages of tumor development, neovascularization, and local invasion whereas the injection of cancer cells in the bloodstream of zebrafish embryo may allow the study of metastatic homing and colonization. This review focuses on the recent advances in tumor xenotransplantation in zebrafish embryo for the in vivo study of the cancer neovascularization, invasion and metastatic processes. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.► Zebrafish represents a power tool in cancer research. ► Mammalian tumor cells can be injected in zebrafish adults, juveniles and embryos. ► Zebrafish embryo/tumor grafts allow the study of tumor/endothelial cell cross-talk. ► Various metastatic process steps can be investigated in zebrafish embryo/tumor grafts. ► Zebrafish embryo/tumor grafts are suitable for anti-angiogenic drug discovery.
Keywords: Angiogenesis; Cancer; Metastasis; Xenograft; Zebrafish;

Invertebrate models of fungal infection by Marios Arvanitis; Justin Glavis-Bloom; Eleftherios Mylonakis (1378-1383).
The morbidity, mortality and economic burden associated with fungal infections, together with the emergence of fungal strains resistant to current antimicrobial agents, necessitate broadening our understanding of fungal pathogenesis and discovering new agents to treat these infections. Using invertebrate hosts, especially the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the model insects Drosophila melanogaster and Galleria mellonella, could help achieve these goals. The evolutionary conservation of several aspects of the innate immune response between invertebrates and mammals makes the use of these simple hosts an effective and fast screening method for identifying fungal virulence factors and testing potential antifungal compounds. The purpose of this review is to compare several model hosts that have been used in experimental mycology to-date and to describe their different characteristics and contribution to the study of fungal virulence and the detection of compounds with antifungal properties. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
Keywords: Invertebrate; Fungal infection; Model host; Innate immunity; Fungal virulence; Antifungal compound;

The aged dog naturally develops cognitive decline in many different domains (including learning and memory) but also exhibits human-like individual variability in the aging process. The neurobiological basis for cognitive dysfunction may be related to structural changes that reflect neurodegeneration. Molecular cascades that contribute to degeneration in the aging dog brain include the progressive accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) in diffuse plaques and in the cerebral vasculature. In addition, neuronal dysfunction occurs as a consequence of mitochondrial dysfunction and cumulative oxidative damage. In combination, the aged dog captures key features of human aging, making them particularly useful for the development of preventive or therapeutic interventions to improve aged brain function. These interventions can then be translated into human clinical trials. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
Keywords: Beagle; Beta-amyloid; Cognition; Mild cognitive impairment; Oxidative damage;

Mutant ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules can be toxic to the cell, causing human disease through trans-acting dominant mechanisms. RNA toxicity was first described in myotonic dystrophy type 1, a multisystemic disorder caused by the abnormal expansion of a non-coding trinucleotide repeat sequence. The development of multiple and complementary animal models of disease has greatly contributed to clarifying the complex disease pathways mediated by toxic RNA molecules. RNA toxicity is not limited to myotonic dystrophy and spreads to an increasing number of human conditions, which share some unifying pathogenic events mediated by toxic RNA accumulation and disruption of RNA-binding proteins. The remarkable progress in the dissection of disease pathobiology resulted in the rational design of molecular therapies, which have been successfully tested in animal models. Toxic RNA diseases, and in particular myotonic dystrophy, clearly illustrate the critical contribution of animal models of disease in translational research: from gene mutation to disease mechanisms, and ultimately to therapy development. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
Keywords: Animal model; RNA toxicity; Trinucleotide repeat; Microsatellite expansion; Myotonic dystrophy; RNA splicing;

Murine models of atrophy, cachexia, and sarcopenia in skeletal muscle by Mark Romanick; LaDora V. Thompson; Holly M. Brown-Borg (1410-1420).
With the extension of life span over the past several decades, the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength that characterizes sarcopenia is becoming more evident and thus, has a more significant impact on society. To determine ways to intervene and delay, or even arrest the physical frailty and dependence that accompany sarcopenia, it is necessary to identify those biochemical pathways that define this process. Animal models that mimic one or more of the physiological pathways involved with this phenomenon are very beneficial in providing an understanding of the cellular processes at work in sarcopenia. The ability to influence pathways through genetic manipulation gives insight into cellular responses and their impact on the physical expression of sarcopenia. This review evaluates several murine models that have the potential to elucidate biochemical processes integral to sarcopenia. Identifying animal models that reflect sarcopenia or its component pathways will enable researchers to better understand those pathways that contribute to age-related skeletal muscle mass loss, and in turn, develop interventions that will prevent, retard, arrest, or reverse this phenomenon. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
Keywords: Frailty; Muscle loss; Signaling; Mouse; Sarcopenia;

Rodent models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis by Philip McGoldrick; Peter I. Joyce; Elizabeth M.C. Fisher; Linda Greensmith (1421-1436).
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterised by the degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons. Recent advances in our understanding of some of the genetic causes of ALS, such as mutations in SOD1, TARDBP, FUS and VCP have led to the generation of rodent models of the disease, as a strategy to help our understanding of the pathophysiology of ALS and to assist in the development of therapeutic strategies. This review provides detailed descriptions of TDP-43, FUS and VCP models of ALS, and summarises potential therapeutics which have been recently trialled in rodent models of the disease. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
Keywords: ALS; Models; TDP-43; FUS; SOD1; VCP;

Animal models have been used for decades in the Alzheimer's disease (AD) research field and have been crucial for the advancement of our understanding of the disease. Most models are based on familial AD mutations of genes involved in the amyloidogenic process, such as the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilin 1 (PS1). Some models also incorporate mutations in tau (MAPT) known to cause frontotemporal dementia, a neurodegenerative disease that shares some elements of neuropathology with AD. While these models are complex, they fail to display pathology that perfectly recapitulates that of the human disease. Unfortunately, this level of pre-existing complexity creates a barrier to the further modification and improvement of these models. However, as the efficacy and safety of viral vectors improves, their use as an alternative to germline genetic modification is becoming a widely used research tool. In this review we discuss how this approach can be used to better utilize common mouse models in AD research. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Neurodegeneration; Transgenic mouse model; Adeno-associated virus; Lentivirus;

Parabiosis is a chronic preparation that allows exchange of whole blood between two animals. It has been used extensively to test for involvement of circulating factors in feedback regulation of physiological systems. The total blood volume of each animal exchanges approximately ten times each day, therefore, factors that are rapidly cleared from the circulation do not reach equilibrium across the parabiotic union whereas those with a long half-life achieve a uniform concentration and bioactivity in both members of a pair. Involvement of a circulating factor in the regulation of energy balance was first demonstrated when one member of a pair of parabiosed rats became hyperphagic and obese following bilateral lesioning of the ventromedial hypothalamus. The non-lesioned partner stopped eating, lost a large amount of weight and appeared to be responding to a circulating “satiety” factor released by the obese rat. These results were confirmed using different techniques to induce obesity in one member of a pair. Studies with phenotypically similar ob/ob obese and db/db diabetic mice indicated that the obese mouse lacked a circulating signal that regulated energy balance, whereas the diabetic mouse appeared insensitive to such a signal. Positional cloning studies identified leptin as the circulating factor and subsequent parabiosis studies confirmed leptin's ability to exchange effectively between parabionts. These studies also suggest the presence of additional unidentified factors that influence body composition. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
Keywords: Humoral factors; Parabiotic disharmony; Obesity; Hypothalamus; Leptin;

Prolonged diet induced obesity has minimal effects towards brain pathology in mouse model of cerebral amyloid angiopathy: Implications for studying obesity–brain interactions in mice by Le Zhang; Kalavathi Dasuri; Sun-Ok Fernandez-Kim; Annadora J. Bruce-Keller; Linnea R. Freeman; Jennifer K. Pepping; Tina L. Beckett; M. Paul Murphy; Jeffrey N. Keller (1456-1462).
Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) occurs in nearly every individual with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Down's syndrome, and is the second largest cause of intracerebral hemorrhage. Mouse models of CAA have demonstrated evidence for increased gliosis contributing to CAA pathology. Nearly two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, with little known about the effects of obesity on the brain, although increasingly the vasculature appears to be a principle target of obesity effects on the brain. In the current study we describe for the first time whether diet induced obesity (DIO) modulates glial reactivity, amyloid levels, and inflammatory signaling in a mouse model of CAA. In these studies we identify surprisingly that DIO does not significantly increase Aβ levels, astrocyte (GFAP) or microglial (IBA-1) gliosis in the CAA mice. However, within the hippocampal gyri a localized increase in reactive microglia were increased in the CA1 and stratum oriens relative to CAA mice on a control diet. DIO was observed to selectively increase IL-6 in CAA mice, with IL-1β and TNF-α not increased in CAA mice in response to DIO. Taken together, these data show that prolonged DIO has only modest effects towards Aβ in a mouse model of CAA, but appears to elevate some localized microglial reactivity within the hippocampal gyri and selective markers of inflammatory signaling. These data are consistent with the majority of the existing literature in other models of Aβ pathology, which surprisingly show a mixed profile of DIO effects towards pathological processes in mouse models of neurodegenerative disease. The importance for considering the potential impact of ceiling effects in pathology within mouse models of Aβ pathogenesis, and the current experimental limitations for DIO in mice to fully replicate metabolic dysfunction present in human obesity, are discussed. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.► This article is the first to demonstrate the effects of obesity on cerebral amyloid angiopathy ► This article is first to describe the limitations of using mouse dietary models of obesity to study neurodegeneration. ► This article is first to summarize the current state of the field for obesity–brain pathology studies done to date.
Keywords: Adiposity; Alzheimer's disease; Astrocyte; Diabetes; Inflammation; Microglia;