Dysfunction of the proteoglycan Tsukushi causes hydrocephalus through altered neurogenesis in the subventricular zone in mice

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Science Translational Medicine  31 Mar 2021:
Vol. 13, Issue 587, eaay7896
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aay7896

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Unraveling ventricle expansion

Hydrocephalus is a life-threatening condition resulting from expansion of the brain lateral ventricle (LV) and increased intracranial pressure. One of the most frequent causes of hydrocephalus is the alterations of the neural stem cell (NSC) population in the subventricular zone (SVZ). Here, Ito et al. investigated the mechanisms leading to NSC abnormalities in rodent models and showed that the lack of the proteoglycan Tsukushi in the ependymal cells of the SVZ resulted in abnormal LV expansion, altered neurogenesis, and hydrocephalus development. Administration of Tsukushi prevented the development of hydrocephalus. Tsukushi variants were found in patients, suggesting that Tsukushi might play a role in some cases of hydrocephalus.


The lateral ventricle (LV) is flanked by the subventricular zone (SVZ), a neural stem cell (NSC) niche rich in extrinsic growth factors regulating NSC maintenance, proliferation, and neuronal differentiation. Dysregulation of the SVZ niche causes LV expansion, a condition known as hydrocephalus; however, the underlying pathological mechanisms are unclear. We show that deficiency of the proteoglycan Tsukushi (TSK) in ependymal cells at the LV surface and in the cerebrospinal fluid results in hydrocephalus with neurodevelopmental disorder-like symptoms in mice. These symptoms are accompanied by altered differentiation and survival of the NSC lineage, disrupted ependymal structure, and dysregulated Wnt signaling. Multiple TSK variants found in patients with hydrocephalus exhibit reduced physiological activity in mice in vivo and in vitro. Administration of wild-type TSK protein or Wnt antagonists, but not of hydrocephalus-related TSK variants, in the LV of TSK knockout mice prevented hydrocephalus and preserved SVZ neurogenesis. These observations suggest that TSK plays a crucial role as a niche molecule modulating the fate of SVZ NSCs and point to TSK as a candidate for the diagnosis and therapy of hydrocephalus.

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