Structural abnormalities of the basal ganglia have been documented in several neuropsychiatric conditions associated with dysregulation of the dopamine system. However, the histological nature underlying these changes is largely unknown. Using magnetic resonance imaging at microscopic resolution (MRI, 9.4 T with 43 microm isotropic spatial resolution) and stereological techniques, we have investigated the effect of increased dopamine neurotransmission on brain morphology in mice with elevated extracellular dopamine, the dopamine transporter knockout (DAT-KO) mice. We first demonstrate the usefulness of MRI at microscopic resolution for the accurate identification and measurement of volumes of specific subregions, accounting for less than 0.03% (0.16 mm(3)) of the volume of a mouse brain. Furthermore, the MRI analysis reveals a significantly lower volume (-9%) of the anterior striatum of DAT-KO mice, while the volume of other dopamine-related structures such as the posterior striatum and the substantia nigra pars reticulata is unchanged in comparison to wild type littermates. Stereological analysis performed in the same brains reveals that one important structural factor accounting for this selective change in volume is a reduction of 18% in the absolute number of neuronal cell bodies. The feasibility of assessing accurately small morphological alterations in mouse models, where the molecular and histological pathologies can be easily compared in a controlled manner, provides a paradigm to examine the relevance of selective brain volumetric changes associated with a number of neuropathological conditions.
Animals • Basal Ganglia • Brain • Cell Count • Dopamine • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins • Fluorescent Antibody Technique • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted • Magnetic Resonance Imaging • Male • Membrane Glycoproteins • Membrane Transport Proteins • Mice • Mice, Knockout • Models, Neurological • Neostriatum • Nerve Tissue Proteins • Neurons • anatomy & histology • anatomy & histology* • cytology • genetics • physiology • physiology*