Patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) can develop strokes and as a result, present neurologic and neurocognitive deficits. However, recent studies show that even without detectable cerebral parenchymal abnormalities on imaging studies, SCD patients can have significant cognitive and motor dysfunction, which can present as early as during infancy. As the cerebellum plays pivotal roles in motor and non-motor functions including sensorimotor processing and learning, we examined cerebellar behavior in humanized SCD mice using the Erasmus ladder. Homozygous (sickling) mice had significant locomotor malperformance characterized by miscoordination and impaired locomotor gait/stepping patterns adaptability. Conversely, Townes homozygous mice had no overall deficits in motor learning, as they were able to associate a conditioning stimulus (high-pitch warning tone) with the presentation of an obstacle and learned to decrease steptimes thereby increasing speed to avoid it. While these animals had no cerebellar strokes, these locomotor and adaptive gait/stepping patterns deficits were associated with oxidative stress, as well as cerebellar vascular endothelial and white matter abnormalities and blood brain barrier disruption, suggestive of ischemic injury. Taken together, these observations suggest that motor and adaptive locomotor deficits in SCD mice mirror some of those described in SCD patients and that ischemic changes in white matter and vascular endothelium and oxidative stress are biologic correlates of those deficits. These findings point to the cerebellum as a cerebral region that is vulnerable to vascular and white matter injury and support the use of SCD mice for studies of the underlying mechanisms of cerebellar dysfunction in SCD.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.