Understanding neurodegenerative disease progression and its treatment requires the systematic characterization and manipulation of relevant cell types and molecular pathways. The neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disorder Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC) is highly amenable to genetic approaches that allow exploration of the disease biology at the organismal, cellular and molecular level. Although NPC is a rare disease, genetic analysis of the associated neuropathology promises to provide insight into the logic of disease neural circuitry, selective neuron vulnerability and neural-glial interactions. The ability to control the disorder cell-autonomously and in naturally occurring spontaneous animal models that recapitulate many aspects of the human disease allows for an unparalleled dissection of the disease neurobiology in vivo. Here, we review progress in mouse-model-based studies of NPC disease, specifically focusing on the subtype that is caused by a deficiency in NPC1, a sterol-binding late endosomal membrane protein involved in lipid trafficking. We also discuss recent findings and future directions in NPC disease research that are pertinent to understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in general.
- Received March 14, 2013.
- Accepted June 27, 2013.
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