In addition to mental retardation, individuals with Down syndrome (DS) universally develop the neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) in early adulthood. A mouse model of DS and AD, the Ts65Dn mouse, exhibits key features of these disorders, including early degeneration of cholinergic basal forebrain (CBF) neurons and impairments in the cognitive functions dependent on these neurons and their projection systems, namely, explicit memory and attentional function. We recently completed a study to test the hypothesis that supplementation of the maternal diet with excess choline during pregnancy and lactation would lessen the attentional dysfunction seen in Ts65Dn mice. This study revealed a remarkable benefit of perinatal choline supplementation for the Ts65Dn mice: They performed significantly better than unsupplemented Ts65Dn mice on a series of visual attention tasks, and in fact, on some tasks, did not differ from the disomic (2N) controls. For one task, the 2N mice also benefited from the increased maternal choline intake. The studies proposed herein are designed to elaborate upon these observations with three Specific Aims: (1) To test the hypothesis that the benefit of perinatal choline supplementation in Ts65Dn and 2N mice extends to functions dependent on the cholinergic septo-hippocampal system;(2) To test the hypothesis that the cognitive benefit produced by early choline supplementation in Ts65Dn and 2N mice is mediated by increased number, size, and/or phenotypic expression of cholinergic neurons in specific basal forebrain nuclei (medial septal nucleus and nucleus basalis) and/or their projection systems, using unbiased stereologic cell counting techniques. Quantitative morphometry will be correlated with measures of memory and attention from these same animals to assess the functional significance of any observed changes;(3) To test the hypothesis that improved cognitive functioning in Ts65Dn and 2N mice is mediated by alterations in the nerve growth factor (NGF) family of neurotrophins and its cognate receptors in CBF target regions (frontal cortex and hippocampus). Levels of these neurotrophins and receptors will be measured using immunoblotting and correlated with measures of memory and attention from these same subjects to establish structure-function relationships. The evidence for lifelong cognitive and neural benefits of perinatal choline supplementation in normal rodents and this mouse model of DS/AD raises the possibility that recommendations for choline intake, currently based on preventing liver damage, may need to be re-evaluated, and that higher levels may be needed for optimal brain function. These recent findings suggest that perinatal choline supplementation might significantly reduce the cognitive dysfunction seen in DS as well as reduce the risk of AD and age-related cognitive decline in the population at large. The proposed research is designed to increase our understanding of these effects and begin to elucidate the underlying neural mechanisms subserving these behavioral changes, information that is needed to inform these potential changes in recommendations for choline intake during pregnancy, lactation, and early development.

Public Health Relevance

Recent findings from our lab suggest that providing excess choline during early development might significantly reduce the cognitive dysfunction seen in Down syndrome and reduce the risk of AD and age-related cognitive decline in the population at large. The proposed research is designed to increase our understanding of these effects and begin to elucidate the underlying neural mechanisms. This information is needed to inform potential changes in the recommended dietary intake of choline during pregnancy, lactation and early postnatal development, which may in turn, lead to lifelong improvements in cognitive functioning for individuals with DS and the population at large.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01HD057564-05
Application #
8211029
Study Section
Developmental Brain Disorders Study Section (DBD)
Program Officer
Oster-Granite, Mary Lou
Project Start
2008-02-15
Project End
2014-01-31
Budget Start
2012-02-01
Budget End
2014-01-31
Support Year
5
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$563,791
Indirect Cost
$113,007
Name
Cornell University
Department
Nutrition
Type
Other Domestic Higher Education
DUNS #
872612445
City
Ithaca
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
14850
Ash, Jessica A; Velazquez, Ramon; Kelley, Christy M et al. (2014) Maternal choline supplementation improves spatial mapping and increases basal forebrain cholinergic neuron number and size in aged Ts65Dn mice. Neurobiol Dis 70:32-42
Yan, Jian; Ginsberg, Stephen D; Powers, Brian et al. (2014) Maternal choline supplementation programs greater activity of the phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PEMT) pathway in adult Ts65Dn trisomic mice. FASEB J 28:4312-23
Kelley, Christy M; Powers, Brian E; Velazquez, Ramon et al. (2014) Maternal choline supplementation differentially alters the basal forebrain cholinergic system of young-adult Ts65Dn and disomic mice. J Comp Neurol 522:1390-410
Kelley, Christy M; Powers, Brian E; Velazquez, Ramon et al. (2014) Sex differences in the cholinergic basal forebrain in the Ts65Dn mouse model of Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease. Brain Pathol 24:33-44
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Moon, Jisook; Chen, May; Gandhy, Shruti U et al. (2010) Perinatal choline supplementation improves cognitive functioning and emotion regulation in the Ts65Dn mouse model of Down syndrome. Behav Neurosci 124:346-61