Trehalose alleviates the phenotype of Machado-Joseph disease mouse models

Magda M. Santana, Susana Paixão, Janete Cunha-Santos, Teresa Pereira Silva, Allyson Trevino-Garcia, Laetitia S. Gaspar, Clévio Nóbrega, Rui Jorge Nobre, Cláudia Cavadas, Hagar Greif, Luís Pereira De Almeida*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Machado-Joseph disease (MJD), also known as spinocerebellar ataxia type 3, is the most common of the dominantly inherited ataxias worldwide and is characterized by mutant ataxin-3 aggregation and neuronal degeneration. There is no treatment available to block or delay disease progression. In this work we investigated whether trehalose, a natural occurring disaccharide widely used in food and cosmetic industry, would rescue biochemical, behavioral and neuropathological features of an in vitro and of a severe MJD transgenic mouse model. Methods: Two MJD animal models, a lentiviral based and a transgenic model, were orally treated with 2% trehalose solution for a period of 4 and 30 weeks, respectively. Motor behavior (rotarod, grip strength and footprint patterns) was evaluated at different time points and neuropathological features were evaluated upon in-life phase termination. Results: Trehalose-treated MJD mice equilibrated for a longer time in the rotarod apparatus and exhibited an improvement of ataxic gait in footprint analysis. Trehalose-mediated improvements in motor behaviour were associated with a reduction of the MJD-associated neuropathology, as MJD transgenic mice treated with trehalose presented preservation of cerebellar layers thickness and a decrease in the size of ataxin-3 aggregates in Purkinje cells. In agreement, an improvement of neuropathological features was also observed in the full length lentiviral-based mouse model of MJD submitted to 2% trehalose treatment. Conclusions: The present study suggests trehalose as a safety pharmacological strategy to counteract MJD-associated behavioural and neuropathological impairments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number161
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Autophagy
  • Machado-Joseph disease
  • Polyglutamine disorder
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3
  • Trehalose


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