Neural Stem Cell Grafts and the Influence of Apolipoprotein E in a Mouse Model of Global Ischaemia
Neural stem cell (NSC) transplantation is a promising therapy for the treatment of brain damage. Although the “proof of principle” for NSC transplantation therapy has been demonstrated in a variety of animal models of brain injury (stroke, traumatic brain injury, ageing) and in a clinical setting (Parkinson’s disease), the mechanisms by which grafted stem cells survive, migrate and differentiate in host brain are yet to be elucidated. Initial studies have demonstrated that, after transplantation of the MHP36 neural stem cell line in a focal ischaemia model, the lipid transport protein apolipoprotein E (apoE) is upregulated and co-localised to differentiated cells in parallel with functional recovery. ApoE has been shown to have a critical role in the response to brain injury and repair processes. Furthermore, in humans, three different forms of apoE exist (E2, E3, E4 encoded by the alleles e2, e3, e4) and each of these has a different ability to promote repair, with the E4 form associated with an impaired capacity. This thesis tests the hypothesis that apoE is critical in stem cell integration and investigates whether this effect is APOE genotype dependent, in a mouse model of global cerebral ischaemia. This model was chosen as it produces diffuse selective neuronal damage in the striatum and hippocampus, which also occurs in other conditions such as ageing and Alzheimer’s disease. The studies described in this thesis were designed to test the hypothesis and are outlined as follows: I. Characterisation of neural stem cell grafts in a mouse model of global ischaemia In order to investigate the potential influence of apoE on stem cell grafts, it was first essential to characterise stem cells grafts in mouse brain. Thus, the initial aim of the thesis was to characterise MHP36 grafts in a mouse model of ischaemic neuronal injury. The effect of cyclosporin A (CsA) immunosuppression was also investigated. C57Bl/6J mice underwent an episode of transient global ischaemia induced by bilateral common carotid artery occlusion. Three days following ischaemia, mice received a unilateral striatal graft of fluorescently labelled MHP36 neural stem cells or vehicle; the mice also received CsA or saline. The mice were terminated at either XVII 1 or 4 weeks post-transplantation. This study determined that MHP36 grafts survived and migrated robustly in host ischaemic brain at both 1 week and 4 weeks post-transplantation. Grafted MHP36 cells differentiated into neurons and were able to reduce the extent of ischaemic neuronal damage. An acute host inflammatory response was evoked following MHP36 grafting, but this decreased dramatically by 4 weeks post-transplantation. CsA immunosuppression did not affect MHP36 survival and migration or reduce the host inflammatory response. The successful transplantation and characterisation of MHP36 grafts in mouse brain allowed for future investigation into the genetic factors underlying stem cell graft integration via the use of apoE transgenic mice. II. Influence of apoE on neural stem cell grafts in a mouse model of global ischaemia The aim of this study was to investigate whether endogenous apoE influenced MHP36 survival, migration and differentiation and then to determine potential signalling pathways that may be involved. ApoE deficient mice on a C57Bl/6J background (APOE-KO) and control wildtype C57Bl/6J (WT) mice were subjected to an episode of transient global ischaemia, as in Experiment 1. Two weeks following ischaemia, all mice received unilateral striatal and hippocampal grafts of MHP36 cells. All mice received CsA immunosuppression. Mice were terminated 4 weeks post-transplantation. MHP36 survival and migration was significantly increased in WT as compared to APOE-KO mice. In addition, neuronal differentiation was significantly increased in WT as compared to APOE-KO mice. Increased astrocytic differentiation was observed in the hippocampus, but not striatum of WT as compared to APOE-KO mice. Measurement of the levels of signalling proteins associated with cell survival, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERKs) and c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNKs) and their phosphorylated forms (pERK and pJNK), indicated selective alterations in JNK with no change in ERK in APOE-KO as compared to WT mice, suggesting that JNK may underlie the apoE effects in stem cell integration. This study demonstrated that apoE strongly influences the survival, migration and differentiation of grafted MHP36 cells and provides initial evidence for the signalling pathways involved. XVIII III. Influence of APOE genotype on neural stem cell grafts in a mouse model of global ischaemia Following the demonstration that endogenous mouse apoE has a critical role in MHP36 graft survival, migration and differentiation, this study sought to investigate whether these effects are influenced by human APOE genotype. Transgenic mice expressing human APOE-e3 or e4, (on an APOE-KO background) and a control group of APOE-KO mice underwent transient global ischaemia and two weeks later MHP36 cells were transplanted unilaterally into the striatum and hippocampus. 1 week after grafting the mice were started on a series of tests for motor balance and coordination using the rotarod, and taken for histology 4 weeks post-transplantation. MHP36 graft survival was significantly improved in APOE-e3 mice compared to APOE-KO and APOE-e4 mice. However, the migration and differentiation of MHP36 cells and motor performance of grafted mice were similar in all three APOE groups, indicating a comparable fate and functional activity within a 4 week survival time. Thus the data indicate that APOE genotype may influence cell survival with minimal effect on stem cell migration and differentiation. The data presented in this thesis demonstrate that endogenous apoE strongly influences MHP36 graft survival, migration and differentiation. Although there was minimal evidence that human APOE genotype influences cell migration and differentiation, stem cell survival was markedly improved in a human APOE-e3 allelic environment, which may affect the effectiveness of stem cells in APOE-e4 individuals.