Gaucher mice, created by targeted disruption of the glucocerebrosidase gene, are totally deficient in glucocerebrosidase and have a rapidly deteriorating clinical course analogous to the most severely affected type 2 human patients. An ultrastructural study of tissues from these mice revealed glucocerebroside accumulation in bone marrow, liver, spleen, and brain. This glycolipid had a characteristic elongated tubular structure and was contained in lysosomes, as demonstrated by colocalization with both ingested carbon particles and cathepsin D. In the central nervous system (CNS), glucocerebroside was diffusely stored in microglia cells and in brainstem and spinal cord neurons, but not in neurons of the cerebellum or cerebral cortex. This rostralcaudal pattern of neuronal lipid storage in these Gaucher mice replicates the pattern seen in type 2 human Gaucher patients and clearly demonstrates that glycosphingolipid catabolism and/or accumulation varies within different brain regions. Surprisingly, the cellular pathology of tissue from these Gaucher mice was relatively mild, and suggests that the early and rapid demise of both Gaucher mice and severely affected type 2 human neonates may be the result of both a neurotoxic metabolite, such as glucosylsphingosine, and other factors, such as skin water barrier dysfunction secondary to the absence of glucocerebrosidase activity.

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Molecular and Chemical Neuropathology
Department of Molecular Genetics

Willemsen, R., Tybulewicz, V., Sidransky, E., Eliason, W., Martin, B., LaMarca, M., … Ginns, E. (1995). A biochemical and ultrastructural evaluation of the type 2 Gaucher mouse. Molecular and Chemical Neuropathology, 24(2-3), 179–192. doi:10.1007/BF02962142