Inherited defects in purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) cause severe T cell immunodeficiency and progressive neurological dysfunction, yet little is known about the effects of PNP deficiency on the brain. PNP-KO mice display metabolic and immune anomalies similar to those observed in patients. Our objectives were to characterize brain abnormalities in PNP-KO mice and determine whether restoring PNP activity prevents these abnormalities.We analyzed structural brain defects in PNP-KO mice by magnetic resonance imaging, while assessing motor deficits using the accelerating rotarod and stationary balance beam tests. We detected morphological abnormalities and apoptosis in the cerebellum of PNP-KO mice by hematoxylin and eosin, electron microscopy, TUNEL and activated caspase 3 staining. We treated PNP-KO mice with PNP fused to the HIV-TAT protein transduction domain (TAT-PNP) from birth or from 4. weeks of age.Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a smaller than normal cerebellum in PNP-KO mice. PNP-KO mice displayed motor abnormalities including rapid fall from the rotating rod and frequent slips from the balance beam. The cerebellum of PNP-KO mice contained reduced purkinje cells (PC), which were irregular in shape and had degenerated dendrites. PC from the cerebellum of PNP-KO mice, expanded ex vivo, demonstrated increased apoptosis, which could be corrected by supplementing cultures with TAT-PNP. TAT-PNP injections restored PNP activity in the cerebellum of PNP-KO mice. TAT-PNP from birth, but not treatment initiated at 4. weeks of age, prevented the cerebellar PC damage and motor deficits.We conclude that PNP deficiency cause cerebellar abnormalities, including PC damage and progressive motor deficits. TAT-PNP treatment from birth can prevent the neurological abnormalities in PNP-KO mice.
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