Astrocytes have recently been shown to provide physiological support for various brain functions, although little is known about their involvement in white matter integrity. Several inherited infantile-onset leukoencephalopathies, such as Alexander disease and megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts (MLC), implicate astrocytic involvement in the formation of white matter. Several mouse models of MLC had been generated by knocking out the Mlc1 gene; however, none of those models was reported to show myelin abnormalities prior to formation of the myelin sheath. Here we generated a new Mlc1 knockout mouse and a Mlc1 overexpressing mouse, and demonstrate that astrocyte-specific Mlc1 overexpression causes infantile-onset abnormalities of the white matter in which astrocytic swelling followed by myelin membrane splitting are present, whereas knocking out Mlc1 does not, and only shows myelin abnormalities after 12 months of age. Biochemical analyses demonstrated that MLC1 interacts with the Na+/K+ ATPase and that overexpression of Mlc1 results in decreased activity of the astrocytic Na+/K+ pump. In contrast, no changes in Na+/K+ pump activity were observed in Mlc1 KO mice, suggesting that the reduction in Na+/K+ pump activity resulting from Mlc1 overexpression causes astrocytic swelling. Our infantile-onset leukoencephalopathy model based on Mlc1 overexpression may provide an opportunity to further explore the roles of astrocytes in white matter development and structural integrity. We established a novel mouse model for infantile-onset leukoencephalopathy by the overexpression of Mlc1. Mlc1 overexpression reduced activity of the astrocytic sodium pump, which may underlie white matter edema followed by myelin membrane splitting. GLIA 2016 GLIA 2017;65:150–168.
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