Genetic ablation of homeodomain-interacting protein kinase 2 selectively induces apoptosis of cerebellar Purkinje cells during adulthood and generates an ataxic-like phenotype

S. Anzilotti, M. Tornincasa, R. Gerlini, A. Conte, P. Brancaccio, O. Cuomo, G. Bianco, A. Fusco, L. Annunziato, G. Pignataro, G. M. Pierantoni

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Homeodomain-interacting protein kinase 2 (HIPK2) is a multitalented coregulator of an increasing number of transcription factors and cofactors involved in cell death and proliferation in several organs and systems. As Hipk2 - mice show behavioral abnormalities consistent with cerebellar dysfunction, we investigated whether Hipk2 is involved in these neurological symptoms. To this aim, we characterized the postnatal developmental expression profile of Hipk2 in the brain cortex, hippocampus, striatum, and cerebellum of mice by real-time PCR, western blot analysis, and immunohistochemistry. Notably, we found that whereas in the brain cortex, hippocampus, and striatum, HIPK2 expression progressively decreased with age, that is, from postnatal day 1 to adulthood, it increased in the cerebellum. Interestingly, mice lacking Hipk2 displayed atrophic lobules and a visibly smaller cerebellum than did wild-type mice. More important, the cerebellum of Hipk2 - mice showed a strong reduction in cerebellar Purkinje neurons during adulthood. Such reduction is due to the activation of an apoptotic process associated with a compromised proteasomal function followed by an unpredicted accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins. In particular, Purkinje cell dysfunction was characterized by a strong accumulation of ubiquitinated β-catenin. Moreover, our behavioral tests showed that Hipk2 - mice displayed muscle and balance impairment, indicative of Hipk2 involvement in cerebellar function. Taken together, these results indicate that Hipk2 exerts a relevant role in the survival of cerebellar Purkinje cells and that Hipk2 genetic ablation generates cerebellar dysfunction compatible with an ataxic-like phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2004
JournalCell Death and Disease
Publication statusPublished - Dec 3 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Immunology
  • Cancer Research
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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