Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by ataxia and cerebellar atrophy. A number of different mutations gives rise to different types of SCA with characteristic ages of onset, symptomatology, and rates of progression. SCA type 34 (SCA34) is caused by mutations in ELOVL4 (ELOngation of Very Long-chain fatty acids 4), a fatty acid elongase essential for biosynthesis of Very Long Chain Saturated and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (VLC-SFA and VLC-PUFA, resp., ≥28 carbons), which have important functions in the brain, skin, retina, Meibomian glands, testes, and sperm. We generated a rat model of SCA34 by knock-in of the SCA34-causing 736T>G (p.W246G) ELOVL4 mutation. Rats carrying the mutation developed impaired motor deficits by 2 months of age. To understand the mechanism of these motor deficits, we performed electrophysiological studies using cerebellar slices from rats homozygous for W246G mutant ELOVL4 and found marked reduction of long-term potentiation at parallel fiber synapses and long-term depression at climbing fiber synapses onto Purkinje cells. Neuroanatomical analysis of the cerebellum showed normal cytoarchitectural organization with no evidence of degeneration out to 6 months of age. These results point to ELOVL4 as essential for motor function and cerebellar synaptic plasticity. The results further suggest that ataxia in SCA34 patients may arise from a primary impairment of synaptic plasticity and cerebellar network desynchronization before onset of neurodegeneration and progression of the disease at a later age.
- Elongation of Very Long Chain Fatty Acids-4 (ELOVL4)
- Spinocerebellar ataxia-34 (SCA34)
- Very Long Chain Fatty Acids (VLC-FA)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience