Neuronal Intranuclear Inclusions
NIIs are not exclusive to DRPLA; they have been found in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders. In DRPLA, NIIs have been demonstrated in both neurons and glial cells in the striatum, pontine nuclei, inferior olive, cerebellar cortex and dentate nucleus, though the incidence of neurons with NIIs is low, roughly 1-3%.
In DRPLA, the NIIs are spherical, eosinophilic structures of various sizes. They are non-membrane-bound and are composed of both granular and filamentous structures. They are ubiquitinated and may be paired or in doublet form within the nucleus.
NIIs are immunopositive for several transcription factors such as TATA binding protein (TBP), TBP-associated factor (TAFII130), Sp1, camp-responsive element-binding protein (CREB) and CREB-binding protein (CBP). It has been proposed that recruitment of transcription factors into NIIs may induce transcriptional abnormalities that contribute to progressive neuronal degeneration. Other polyQ disorders, such as Huntington’s and spinocerebellar ataxia (types 3 and 7), have been demonstrated to sequester some of the same transcriptions factors. That different gene products sequester the same transcription factors may contribute to the overlapping symptoms of genetically different diseases.
NIIs have also been demonstrated to alter the distribution of the intranuclear structures, such as promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML) nuclear bodies. Although the role of PML bodies is unclear, they are believed to be involved in apoptosis. In neurons with NII, PML bodies in DRPLA patients form a shell or ring around the ubiquitinated core. In similar polyQ diseases, the association of this PML shell has been shown to be size-dependent with larger NIIs being PML negative. This has led to two models, one in which PML bodies represent sites for NII formation and a second in which PML bodies are involved in degradation and proteolysis of NIIs.
Filementous, atrophin-1 positive, inclusions are also observed exclusively in the cytoplasm of the dentate nucleus, which are extremely similar to the inclusions observed in the motor neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.