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Neural tube defects (NTDs) are severe congenital neurodevelopmental disorders arising from incomplete neural tube closure. Although folate supplementation has been shown to mitigate the incidence of NTDs, some cases, often attributable to genetic factors, remain unpreventable. The SHROOM3 gene has been implicated in NTD cases that are unresponsive to folate supplementation; at present, however, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Neural tube morphogenesis is a complex process involving the folding of the planar epithelium of the neural plate. To determine the role of SHROOM3 in early developmental morphogenesis, we established a neuroepithelial organoid culture system derived from cynomolgus monkeys to closely mimic the in vivo neural plate phase. Loss of SHROOM3 resulted in shorter neuroepithelial cells and smaller nuclei. These morphological changes were attributed to the insufficient recruitment of cytoskeletal proteins, namely fibrous actin (F-actin), myosin II, and phospho-myosin light chain (PMLC), to the apical side of the neuroepithelial cells. Notably, these defects were not rescued by folate supplementation. RNA sequencing revealed that differentially expressed genes were enriched in biological processes associated with cellular and organ morphogenesis. In summary, we established an authentic in vitro system to study NTDs and identified a novel mechanism for NTDs that are unresponsive to folate supplementation.
PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1), a mitochondrial kinase that phosphorylates Parkin and other proteins, plays a crucial role in mitophagy and protection against neurodegeneration. Mutations in PINK1 and Parkin can lead to loss of function and early onset Parkinson’s disease. However, there is a lack of strong in vivo evidence in rodent models to support the theory that loss of PINK1 affects mitophagy and induces neurodegeneration. Additionally, PINK1 knockout pigs (Sus scrofa) do not appear to exhibit neurodegeneration. In our recent work involving non-human primates, we found that PINK1 is selectively expressed in primate brains, while absent in rodent brains. To extend this to other species, we used multiple antibodies to examine the expression of PINK1 in pig tissues. In contrast to tissues from cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis), our data did not convincingly demonstrate detectable PINK1 expression in pig tissues. Knockdown of PINK1 in cultured pig cells did not result in altered Parkin and BAD phosphorylation, as observed in cultured monkey cells. A comparison of monkey and pig striatum revealed more PINK1-phosphorylated substrates in the monkey brain. Consistently, PINK1 knockout in pigs did not lead to obvious changes in the phosphorylation of Parkin and BAD. These findings provide new evidence that PINK1 expression is specific to primates, underscoring the importance of non-human primates in investigating PINK1 function and pathology related to PINK1 deficiency.
Review
Animal models are extensively used in all aspects of biomedical research, with substantial contributions to our understanding of diseases, the development of pharmaceuticals, and the exploration of gene functions. The field of genome modification in rabbits has progressed slowly. However, recent advancements, particularly in CRISPR/Cas9-related technologies, have catalyzed the successful development of various genome-edited rabbit models to mimic diverse diseases, including cardiovascular disorders, immunodeficiencies, aging-related ailments, neurological diseases, and ophthalmic pathologies. These models hold great promise in advancing biomedical research due to their closer physiological and biochemical resemblance to humans compared to mice. This review aims to summarize the novel gene-editing approaches currently available for rabbits and present the applications and prospects of such models in biomedicine, underscoring their impact and future potential in translational medicine.
Neurodegenerative diseases (NDs) are a group of debilitating neurological disorders that primarily affect elderly populations and include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), Huntington’s disease (HD), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Currently, there are no therapies available that can delay, stop, or reverse the pathological progression of NDs in clinical settings. As the population ages, NDs are imposing a huge burden on public health systems and affected families. Animal models are important tools for preclinical investigations to understand disease pathogenesis and test potential treatments. While numerous rodent models of NDs have been developed to enhance our understanding of disease mechanisms, the limited success of translating findings from animal models to clinical practice suggests that there is still a need to bridge this translation gap. Old World non-human primates (NHPs), such as rhesus, cynomolgus, and vervet monkeys, are phylogenetically, physiologically, biochemically, and behaviorally most relevant to humans. This is particularly evident in the similarity of the structure and function of their central nervous systems, rendering such species uniquely valuable for neuroscience research. Recently, the development of several genetically modified NHP models of NDs has successfully recapitulated key pathologies and revealed novel mechanisms. This review focuses on the efficacy of NHPs in modeling NDs and the novel pathological insights gained, as well as the challenges associated with the generation of such models and the complexities involved in their subsequent analysis.