Genetic Ablation of Nrf2/Antioxidant Response Pathway in Alexander Disease Mice Reduces Hippocampal Gliosis but Does Not Impact Survival

In Alexander disease (AxD) the presence of mutant glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), the major intermediate filament of astrocytes, triggers protein aggregation, with marked induction of a stress response mediated by the transcription factor, Nrf2. To clarify the role of Nrf2 in AxD, we have crossed Gfap mutant and transgenic mouse models into an Nrf2 null background. Deletion of Nrf2 eliminates the phase II stress response normally present in mouse models of AxD, but causes no change in body weight or lifespan, even in a severe lethal model. AxD astrocytes without Nrf2 retain features of reactivity, such as expression of the endothelin-B receptor, but have lower Gfap levels, a decrease in p62 protein and reduced iron accumulation, particularly in hippocampus. Microglial activation, indicated by Iba1 expression, is also diminished.
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