It has been reported recently that mice lacking both alleles of the LIM-homeobox gene Lhx7, display dramatically reduced number of forebrain cholinergic neurons. In the present study, we investigated whether the Lhx7 mutation affects male and female mice differently, given the fact that gender differences are consistently observed in forebrain cholinergic function. Our results show that in adult male as well as female Lhx7 homozygous mutants there is a dramatic loss of choline acetyltransferase immunoreactive forebrain neurons, both projection and interneurons. The reduction of forebrain choline acetyltransferase immunoreactive neurons in Lhx7 homozygous mutants is accompanied by a decrease of acetylcholinesterase histochemical staining in all forebrain cholinergic neuron target areas of both male and female homozygous mutants. Furthermore, there was an increase of M1-, but not M2-, muscarinic acetylcholine receptor binding site density in the somatosensory cortex and basal ganglia of only the female homozygous mutant mice. Such an increase can be regarded as a mechanism acting to compensate for the dramatically reduced cholinergic input, raising the possibility that the forebrain cholinergic system in female mice may be more plastic and responsive to situations of limited neurotransmitter availability. Finally, our study provides additional data for the sexual dimorphism of the forebrain cholinergic system, as female mice appear to have a lower density of M1-muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the striatal areas of the basal ganglia and a higher density of M2-muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, in a number of cortical areas, as well as the striatal areas of the basal ganglia.
A. Fragkouli, A. Stamatakis, E. Zographos