Characterization of a model of hydrocephalus in transgenic mice

Alan R. Cohen, David W. Leifer, Marc Zechel, Daniel P. Flaningan, Jonathan S. Lewin, W. David Lust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Object. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the pathophysiological characteristics of hydrocephalus in a new transgenic model of mice created to overproduce the cytokine transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFβ1) in the central nervous system (CNS). Methods. Galbreath and colleagues generated transgenic mice that overexpressed TGFβ, in the CNS in an effort to examine the role of this cytokine in the response of astrocytes to injury. Unexpectedly, the animals developed severe hydrocephalus and died. The authors have perpetuated this transgenic colony to serve as a model of congenital hydrocephalus, breeding asymptomatic carrier males that are heterozygous for the transgene with wild-type females. One hundred twelve (49.6%) of 226 mice developed clinical manifestations of hydrocephalus, characterized by dorsal doming of the calvaria, spasticity, limb tremors, ataxia, and, ultimately, death. The presence of the TGFβ1 transgene was determined by performing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of sample tail slices. Animals with the hydrocephalic phenotype consistently carried the transgene, although some animals with the transgene did not develop hydrocephalus. Animals without the transgene did not develop hydrocephalus. Alterations in brain structure were characterized using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, gross and light microscopic analysis, and immunocytochemical studies. Magnetic resonance imaging readily distinguished hydrocephalic animals from nonhydrocephalic controls and demonstrated an obstruction at the outlets of the fourth ventricle. Gross and light microscopic examination confirmed the MR findings. The results of immunofluorescent staining of brain tissue slices revealed the presence of the TGFβ1 cytokine and its receptor preferentially in the meninges and subarachnoid space in both hydrocephalic and control mice. Reverse transcriptase-PCR analysis demonstrated tissue- specific expression of the TGFβ1 gene in the brains of transgenic mice, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay confirmed overexpression of the TGFβ1 cytokine in brain, cerebrospinal fluid, and plasma. Conclusions. The transgenic murine model provides a reproducible representation of congenital hydrocephalus. The authors hypothesize that overexpression of TGFβ1 in the CNS causes hydrocephalus by altering the environment of the extracellular matrix and interfering with the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid. A model of hydrocephalus in which the genetic basis is known should be useful for evaluating hypotheses regarding the pathogenesis of this disorder and should also help in the search for new treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)978-988
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1999


  • Animal model
  • Cerebral ventricle
  • Cytokine
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Transforming growth factor
  • Transgenic mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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