Human molecular genetics

Efficacy of N-acetylcysteine in phenotypic suppression of mouse models of Niemann-Pick disease, type C1.

PMID 23666527


Niemann-Pick disease, type C1 (NPC1), which arises from a mutation in the NPC1 gene, is characterized by abnormal cellular storage and transport of cholesterol and other lipids that leads to hepatic disease and progressive neurological impairment. Oxidative stress has been hypothesized to contribute to the NPC1 disease pathological cascade. To determine whether treatments reducing oxidative stress could alleviate NPC1 disease phenotypes, the in vivo effects of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) on two mouse models for NPC1 disease were studied. NAC was able to partially suppress phenotypes in both antisense-induced (NPC1ASO) and germline (Npc1-/-) knockout genetic mouse models, confirming the presence of an oxidative stress-related mechanism in progression of NPC1 phenotypes and suggesting NAC as a potential molecule for treatment. Gene expression analyses of NAC-treated NPC1ASO mice suggested NAC affects pathways distinct from those initially altered by Npc1 knockdown, data consistent with NAC achieving partial disease phenotype suppression. In a therapeutic trial of short-term NAC administration to NPC1 patients, no significant effects on oxidative stress in these patients were identified other than moderate improvement of the fraction of reduced CoQ10, suggesting limited efficacy of NAC monotherapy. However, the mouse model data suggest that the distinct antioxidant effects of NAC could provide potential treatment of NPC1 disease, possibly in concert with other therapeutic molecules at earlier stages of disease progression. These data also validated the NPC1ASO mouse as an efficient model for candidate NPC1 drug screening, and demonstrated similarities in hepatic phenotypes and genome-wide transcript expression patterns between the NPC1ASO and Npc1-/- models.