INTRODUCTION: Niemann-Pick type C2 disease (NP-C2) is a fatal neurovisceral disorder caused by defects in the lysosomal cholesterol transporter protein NPC2. Consequently, cholesterol and other lipids accumulate within the lysosomes, causing a heterogeneous spectrum of clinical manifestations. Murine models are essential for increasing the understanding of the complex pathology of NP-C2. This study, therefore, aims to describe the neurovisceral pathology in the NPC2-deficient mouse model to evaluate its correlation to human NP-C2.
METHODS: Npc2-/- mice holding the LST105 mutation were used in the present study (Npc2Gt(LST105)BygNya). Body and organ weight and histopathological evaluations were carried out in six and 12-week-old Npc2-/- mice, with a special emphasis on neuropathology. The Purkinje cell (PC) marker calbindin, the astrocytic marker GFAP, and the microglia marker IBA1 were included to assess PC degeneration and neuroinflammation, respectively. In addition, the pathology of the liver, lungs, and spleen was assessed using hematoxylin and eosin staining.
RESULTS: Six weeks old pre-symptomatic Npc2-/- mice showed splenomegaly and obvious neuropathological changes, especially in the cerebellum, where initial PC loss and neuroinflammation were evident. The Npc2-/- mice developed neurological symptoms at eight weeks of age, severely progressing until the end-stage of the disease at 12 weeks. At the end-stage of the disease, Npc2-/- mice were characterized by growth retardation, tremor, cerebellar ataxia, splenomegaly, foam cell accumulation in the lungs, liver, and spleen, brain atrophy, pronounced PC degeneration, and severe neuroinflammation.
CONCLUSION: The Npc2Gt(LST105)BygNya mouse model resembles the pathology seen in NP-C2 patients and denotes a valuable model for increasing the understanding of the complex disease manifestation and is relevant for testing the efficacies of new treatment strategies.