The shutdown triggered a dramatic decline of interneurons throughout the cerebellum. In a subgroup of those cells, the damage triggered apoptosis, or programmed cell death. But the findings suggested the greatest loss occurred as the immature cerebellar interneurons, or progenitor cells, were poised to complete differentiation. In those cells, McKinnon said, loss of Xrcc1 activated the p53 pathway and blocked the cells from completing the cell cycle. "The cells appear to undergo permanent arrest," said McKinnon, noting it is one of the few in vivo examples of the p53 pathway leading to cell cycle arrest rather than apoptosis.
In the hippocampus, which plays a role in memory and emotion, investigators reported abnormal gene expression and neuronal function. Some neurons were eventually replaced by scar tissue in a process known as gliosis. Overall changes in the hippocampus mimicked those found in the brains of adults with the seizure disorder known as temporal lobe epilepsy. In this study, the loss of Xrcc1 also resulted in seizures in mice.
The other authors of this paper were Youngsoo Lee, Sachin Katyal, Yang Li and Helen R. Russell, all of St. Jude; and Sherif F. El-Khamisy and Keith W. Caldecott of the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.
The work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health and ALSAC.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tenn., St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families
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