Image_4_Locus coeruleus ablation in mice: protocol optimization, stereology and behavioral impact.TIFF
The Locus Coeruleus (LC) is in the brainstem and supplies key brain structures with noradrenaline, including the forebrain and hippocampus. The LC impacts specific behaviors such as anxiety, fear, and motivation, as well as physiological phenomena that impact brain functions in general, including sleep, blood flow regulation, and capillary permeability. Nevertheless, the short- and long-term consequences of LC dysfunction remain unclear. The LC is among the brain structures first affected in patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, hinting that LC dysfunction may play a central role in disease development and progression. Animal models with modified or disrupted LC function are essential to further our understanding of LC function in the normal brain, the consequences of LC dysfunction, and its putative roles in disease development. For this, well-characterized animal models of LC dysfunction are needed. Here, we establish the optimal dose of selective neurotoxin N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-bromo-benzylamine (DSP-4) for LC ablation. Using histology and stereology, we compare LC volume and neuron number in LC ablated (LCA) mice and controls to assess the efficacy of LC ablation with different numbers of DSP-4 injections. All LCA groups show a consistent decrease in LC cell count and LC volume. We then proceed to characterize the behavior of LCA mice using a light-dark box test, Barnes maze test, and non-invasive sleep-wakefulness monitoring. Behaviorally, LCA mice differ subtly from control mice, with LCA mice generally being more curious and less anxious compared to controls consistent with known LC function and projections. We note an interesting contrast in that control mice have varying LC size and neuron count but consistent behavior whereas LCA mice (as expected) have consistently sized LC but erratic behavior. Our study provides a thorough characterization of an LC ablation model, firmly consolidating it as a valid model system for the study of LC dysfunction.