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Kaltwasser, Sebastian (2012): Volumetric Manganese Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging in mice (mus musculus). Dissertation, LMU München: Fakultät für Biologie



The present doctoral thesis introduces a method for semi-automatic volumetric analysis of the hippocampus and other distinct brain regions in laboratory mice. The method of volumetric manganese enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (vMEMRI) makes use of the paramagnetic property of the manganese ion, Mn2+, which results in a positive contrast enhancement of specific brain areas on the MR image and enables a more detailed image of brain morphology. The chemical similarity of Mn2+ to Calcium leads to an accumulation of Mn2+ in excited cells and consequentially an enhanced signal in certain brain regions in an activity dependent manner. However, one major drawback for vMEMRI is the toxicity of Mn2+. Therefore, the aims of the thesis have been: (1) Establishment of a MEMRI protocol in mice (2) Optimization of a Mn2+ application procedure to reduce toxic side effects (3) Development of an automatized method to determine hippocampal volume (4) Validation of vMEMRI analysis (5) Application of volumetric analysis in mouse models of psychopathology This thesis splits into 3 studies. Study 1 deals with Mn2+ toxicity and introduces an application method that considerably reduces the toxic side effects of Mn2+. Study 2 validates vMEMRI as a method to reliably determine hippocampal volume and explores its utilization it in animals with genetically and chemically modified hippocampi. Study 3 displays the application vMEMRI in a mouse model of a psychiatric disorder. Study 1 shows that a single application of Mn2+ in dosages used in current MEMRI studies leads to considerable toxic side effects measurable with physiological, behavioral and endocrine markers. In contrast, a fractionated application of a low dose of Mn2+ is proposed as an alternative to a single injection of a high dose. Repeated application of low dosages of 30 mg/kg Mn2+ showed less toxic side effects compared to the application schemes with higher dosages of 60 mg/kg. Additionally, the best vMEMRI signal contrast was seen for an injection protocol of 30 mg/kg 8 times with an inter-injection interval of 24 h (8x30/24 protocol). The impact of the 8x30/24 application protocol on longitudinal studies was tested by determining whether learning processes are disturbed. Mice were injected with the 8x30/24 protocol 2 weeks prior to receiving a single footshock. Manganese injected mice showed less contextual freezing to the shock context and a shock context reminder one month after shock application. Furthermore, mice showed increased hyperarousal and no avoidance of shock context related odors. This impairment in fear conditioning indicates a disturbed associative learning of Mn2+ injected mice. Therefore, it was investigated whether Mn2+ application shows a specific disturbance of hippocampus dependent learning. Mice were subjected to habitual and spatial learning protocols 12 h after each injection in a water cross-maze. There was no impairment in learning protocols which allowed for hippocampus-independent habitual learning. However, Mn2+ injected mice were specifically impaired in the hippocampus-dependent spatial learning protocol. Furthermore, it was shown that only mice with higher Mn2+ accumulation showed this impairment. Altogether, the results of this chapter argue for a fractionated application scheme such as 30 mg/kg every 24 h for 8 days to provide sufficient MEMRI signal contrast while minimizing toxic side effects. However, the treatment procedure has to be further improved to allow for an analysis of hippocampus-dependent learning processes as well. Because of the potential side effects, the vMEMRI method was applied as a final experiment in study 2 and 3. Study 2 introduces the method of vMEMRI, which allows, for the first time, an in vivo semi-automatic detection of hippocampal volume. Hippocampal volume of mice with genetically altered adult neurogenesis and those with chemically lesioned hippocampi could be analyzed with vMEMRI. Even the highly variable differences in hippocampal volume of these animals could be detected with vMEMRI. vMEMRI data correlated with manually obtained volumes and are in agreement with previously reported histological findings, indicating the high reliability of this method. Study 3 investigates the ability of vMEMRI to detect even small differences in brain morphology by examining volumetric changes of the hippocampus and other brain structures in a mouse model of PTSD supplemented with enriched housing conditions. It was shown, that exposure to a brief inescapable foot shock led to a volume reduction in both the left hippocampus and right central amygdala two months later. Enriched housing decreased the intensity of trauma-associated contextual fear independently of whether it was provided before or after the shock. vMEMRI analysis revealed that enriched housing led to an increase in whole brain volume, including the lateral ventricles and the hippocampus. Furthermore, the enhancement of hippocampal volume through enriched housing was accompanied by the amelioration of trauma-associated PTSD-like symptoms. Hippocampal volume gain and loss was mirrored by ex vivo ultramicroscopic measurements of the hippocampus. Together, these data demonstrate that vMEMRI is able to detect small changes in hippocampal and central amygdalar volumes induced by a traumatic experience in mice. In conclusion, vMEMRI proves to be very reliable and able to detect small volumetric differences in various brain regions in living mice. vMEMRI opens up a great number possibilities for future research determining neuroanatomical structure, volumes and activity in vivo as well as the ability to repeatedly determine such characteristics within each subject, given an improvement of the Mn2+ treatment protocols to minimize potential toxic side effects.