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1.  β1-adrenergic receptor activation enhances memory in Alzheimer's disease model 
Deficits in social recognition and learning of social cues are major symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here, we studied the role of β1-noradrenergic signaling in cognitive function to determine whether it could be used as a potential therapeutic target for AD.
Using pharmacological, biochemical, and behavioral tools, we assessed social recognition and the β1-adrenergic receptor (ADR) and its downstream protein kinase A (PKA)/phospho-cAMP response element-binding protein (pCREB) signaling cascade in the medial amygdala (MeA) in Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe+(APP) mouse model of AD.
Our results demonstrated that APP mice display a significant social recognition deficit which is dependent on the β1-adrenergic system. Moreover, betaxolol, a selective β1-ADR antagonist, impaired social but not object/odor learning in C57Bl/6 mice. Our results identifies activation of the PKA/pCREB downstream of β1-ADR in MeA as responsible signaling cascade for learning of social cues in MeA. Finally, we found that xamoterol, a selective β1-ADR partial agonist, rescued the social recognition deficit of APP mice by increasing nuclear pCREB.
Our data indicate that activation of β1-ADR in MeA is essential for learning of social cues, and that an impairment of this cascade in AD may contribute to pathogenesis and cognitive deficits. Therefore, selective activation of β1-ADR may be used as a therapeutic approach to rescue memory deficits in AD. Further safety and translational studies will be needed to ensure the safety of this approach.
PMCID: PMC4036739  PMID: 24883337
2.  A Small Molecule p75NTR Ligand, LM11A-31, Reverses Cholinergic Neurite Dystrophy in Alzheimer's Disease Mouse Models with Mid- to Late-Stage Disease Progression 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e102136.
Degeneration of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons contributes significantly to the cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and has been attributed to aberrant signaling through the neurotrophin receptor p75 (p75NTR). Thus, modulating p75NTR signaling is considered a promising therapeutic strategy for AD. Accordingly, our laboratory has developed small molecule p75NTR ligands that increase survival signaling and inhibit amyloid-β-induced degenerative signaling in in vitro studies. Previous work found that a lead p75NTR ligand, LM11A-31, prevents degeneration of cholinergic neurites when given to an AD mouse model in the early stages of disease pathology. To extend its potential clinical applications, we sought to determine whether LM11A-31 could reverse cholinergic neurite atrophy when treatment begins in AD mouse models having mid- to late stages of pathology. Reversing pathology may have particular clinical relevance as most AD studies involve patients that are at an advanced pathological stage. In this study, LM11A-31 (50 or 75 mg/kg) was administered orally to two AD mouse models, Thy-1 hAPPLond/Swe (APPL/S) and Tg2576, at age ranges during which marked AD-like pathology manifests. In mid-stage male APPL/S mice, LM11A-31 administered for 3 months starting at 6–8 months of age prevented and/or reversed atrophy of basal forebrain cholinergic neurites and cortical dystrophic neurites. Importantly, a 1 month LM11A-31 treatment given to male APPL/S mice (12–13 months old) with late-stage pathology reversed the degeneration of cholinergic neurites in basal forebrain, ameliorated cortical dystrophic neurites, and normalized increased basal forebrain levels of p75NTR. Similar results were seen in female Tg2576 mice. These findings suggest that LM11A-31 can reduce and/or reverse fundamental AD pathologies in late-stage AD mice. Thus, targeting p75NTR is a promising approach to reducing AD-related degenerative processes that have progressed beyond early stages.
PMCID: PMC4143160  PMID: 25153701
3.  The p75 neurotrophin receptor promotes Aβ-induced neuritic dystrophy in vitro and in vivo 
Oligomeric forms of amyloid-β(1–42) (Aβ) are thought to play a causal role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) has been implicated in Aβ-induced neurodegeneration. To further define the functions of p75NTR in AD, we examined the interaction of oligomeric Aβ with p75NTR, and the effects of that interaction on neurite integrity in neuron cultures and in a chronic AD mouse model. Atomic force microscopy was used to ascertain the aggregated state of Aβ, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) analysis revealed that Aβ oligomers interact with the extracellular domain of p75NTR. In vitro studies of Aβ-induced death in neuron cultures isolated from wildtype and p75NTR −/− mice, in which the p75NTR extracellular domain is deleted, showed reduced sensitivity of mutant cells to Aβ-induced cell death. Interestingly, Aβ-induced neuritic dystrophy and activation of c-Jun, a known mediator of Aβ-induced deleterious signaling, were completely prevented in p75NTR −/− neuron cultures. Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe X p75NTR−/− mice exhibited significantly diminished hippocampal neuritic dystrophy and complete reversal of basal forebrain cholinergic neurite degeneration relative to those expressing wild type p75NTR. Aβ levels were not affected, suggesting that removal of p75NTR extracellular domain reduced the ability of excess Aβ to promote neuritic degeneration. These findings indicate that while p75NTR likely does not mediate all Aβ effects, it does play a significant role in enabling Aβ-induced neurodegeneration in vitro and in vivo, establishing p75NTR as an important therapeutic target for AD.
PMCID: PMC2771439  PMID: 19710315
p75NTR; amyloid-β; Alzheimer’s disease; neuritic dystrophy; neurodegeneration; basal forebrain cholinergic neurons
4.  Amyloid-β protofibril levels correlate with spatial learning in Arctic Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice 
The FEBS journal  2009;276(4):995-1006.
Oligomeric assemblies of Amyloid-β (Aβ) are suggested to be central in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, since levels of soluble Aβ much better correlate with the extent of cognitive dysfunctions than senile plaque counts do. Moreover, such Aβ species have been shown to be neurotoxic, to interfere with learned behavior and to inhibit maintenance of hippocampal long term potentiation. The tg-ArcSwe model, transgenic mice with the Arctic and Swedish Alzheimer mutations, expresses elevated levels of Aβ protofibrils in the brain, making tg-ArcSwe a highly suitable model to investigate the pathogenic role of these Aβ assemblies. In the present study, we estimated Aβ protofibril levels in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid of tg-ArcSwe mice, and also assessed their role with respect to cognitive functions. Protofibril levels, specifically measured with a sandwich ELISA, were found to be elevated in young tg-ArcSwe mice, as compared to several transgenic models lacking the Arctic mutation. In aged tg-ArcSwe mice with considerable plaque deposition, Aβ protofibrils were approximately 50 percent higher than in younger mice, whereas levels of total Aβ were exponentially increased. Young tg-ArcSwe mice showed deficits in spatial learning and individual performance in Morris water maze correlated inversely with levels of Aβ protofibrils, but not with total Aβ levels. We conclude that Aβ protofibrils accumulate in an age-dependent manner in tg-ArcSwe mice, although to a far less extent than total Aβ. Our findings suggest that increased levels of Aβ protofibrils could result in spatial learning impairment.
PMCID: PMC2752010  PMID: 19215301
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β protofibrils; Arctic mutation; transgenic mice; spatial learning
5.  Pharmacogenetic Features of Inhibitors to Cathepsin B that Improve Memory Deficit and Reduce Beta-Amyloid Related to Alzheimer’s Disease 
Biological chemistry  2010;391(8):861-872.
Beta-amyloid (Aβ) in brain is a major factor involved in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that results in severe memory deficit. Our recent studies demonstrate pharmacogenetic differences in the effects of inhibitors of cathepsin B to improve memory and reduce Aβ in different mouse models of AD. The inhibitors improve memory and reduce brain Aβ in mice expressing the wild-type (WT) β-secretase site of human APP, expressed in most AD patients. However, these inhibitors have no effect in mice expressing the rare Swedish (Swe) mutant APP. Knockout of the cathepsin B decreased brain Aβ in mice expressing WT APP, validating cathepsin B as the target. The specificity of cathepsin B to cleave the WT β-secretase site, but not the Swe mutant site, of APP for Aβ production explains the distinct inhibitor responses in the different AD mouse models. In contrast to cathepsin B, the BACE1 β-secretase prefers to cleave the Swe mutant site. Discussion of BACE1 data in the field indicate that they do not preclude cathepsin B as also being a β-secretase. Cathepsin B and BACE1 may participate jointly as β-secretases. Significantly, the majority of AD patients express WT APP and, therefore, inhibitors of cathepsin B represent candidate drugs for AD.
PMCID: PMC4309269  PMID: 20536395
Alzheimer’s disease; β-amyloid; cathepsin B; cleavage site; inhibitor; memory; pharmacogenetics; protease; transgenic AD mice
6.  Altered longevity-assurance activity of p53:p44 in the mouse causes memory loss, neurodegeneration and premature death 
Aging Cell  2010;9(2):174-190.
The longevity-assurance activity of the tumor suppressor p53 depends on the levels of Δ40p53 (p44), a short and naturally occurring isoform of the p53 gene. As such, increased dosage of p44 in the mouse leads to accelerated aging and short lifespan. Here we show that mice homozygous for a transgene encoding p44 (p44+/+) display cognitive decline and synaptic impairment early in life. The synaptic deficits are attributed to hyperactivation of insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R) signaling and altered metabolism of the microtubule-binding protein tau. In fact, they were rescued by either Igf1r or Mapt haploinsufficiency. When expressing a human or a ‘humanized’ form of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), p44+/+ animals developed a selective degeneration of memory-forming and -retrieving areas of the brain, and died prematurely. Mechanistically, the neurodegeneration was caused by both paraptosis- and autophagy-like cell deaths. These results indicate that altered longevity-assurance activity of p53:p44 causes memory loss and neurodegeneration by affecting IGF-1R signaling. Importantly, Igf1r haploinsufficiency was also able to correct the synaptic deficits of APP695/swe mice, a model of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC2848983  PMID: 20409077
Alzheimer’s disease; insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor; memory loss; neurodegeneration; p44; p53
7.  FLZ Alleviates the Memory Deficits in Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease via Decreasing Beta-Amyloid Production and Tau Hyperphosphorylation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78033.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia worldwide and mainly characterized by the aggregated β-amyloid (Aβ) and hyperphosphorylated tau. FLZ is a novel synthetic derivative of natural squamosamide and has been proved to improve memory deficits in dementia animal models. In this study, we aimed to investigate the mechanisms of FLZ’s neuroprotective effect in APP/PS1 double transgenic mice and SH-SY5Y (APPwt/swe) cells. The results showed that treatment with FLZ significantly improved the memory deficits of APP/PS1 transgenic mice and decreased apoptosis of SH-SY5Y (APPwt/swe) cells. FLZ markedly attenuated Aβ accumulation and tau phosphorylation both in vivo and in vitro. Mechanistic study showed that FLZ interfered APP processing, i.e., FLZ decreased β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) phosphorylation, APP-carboxy-terminal fragment (APP-CTF) production and β-amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) expression. These results indicated that FLZ reduced Aβ production through inhibiting amyloidogenic pathway. The mechanistic study about FLZ’s inhibitory effect on tau phosphorylation revealed t the involvement of Akt/glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) pathway. FLZ treatment increased Akt activity and inhibited GSK3β activity both in vivo and in vitro. The inhibitory effect of FLZ on GSK3β activity and tau phosphorylation was suppressed by inhibiting Akt activity, indicating that Akt/GSK3β pathway might be the possible mechanism involved in the inhibitory effect of FLZ on tau hyperphosphorylation. These results suggested FLZ might be a potential anti-AD drug as it not only reduced Aβ production via inhibition amyloidogenic APP processing pathway, but also attenuated tau hyperphosphoylation mediated by Akt/GSK3β.
PMCID: PMC3817172  PMID: 24223757
8.  The neurotrophic compound J147 reverses cognitive impairment in aged Alzheimer's disease mice 
Despite years of research, there are no disease-modifying drugs for Alzheimer's disease (AD), a fatal, age-related neurodegenerative disorder. Screening for potential therapeutics in rodent models of AD has generally relied on testing compounds before pathology is present, thereby modeling disease prevention rather than disease modification. Furthermore, this approach to screening does not reflect the clinical presentation of AD patients which could explain the failure to translate compounds identified as beneficial in animal models to disease modifying compounds in clinical trials. Clearly a better approach to pre-clinical drug screening for AD is required.
To more accurately reflect the clinical setting, we used an alternative screening strategy involving the treatment of AD mice at a stage in the disease when pathology is already advanced. Aged (20-month-old) transgenic AD mice (APP/swePS1ΔE9) were fed an exceptionally potent, orally active, memory enhancing and neurotrophic molecule called J147. Cognitive behavioral assays, histology, ELISA and Western blotting were used to assay the effect of J147 on memory, amyloid metabolism and neuroprotective pathways. J147 was also investigated in a scopolamine-induced model of memory impairment in C57Bl/6J mice and compared to donepezil. Details on the pharmacology and safety of J147 are also included.
Data presented here demonstrate that J147 has the ability to rescue cognitive deficits when administered at a late stage in the disease. The ability of J147 to improve memory in aged AD mice is correlated with its induction of the neurotrophic factors NGF (nerve growth factor) and BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) as well as several BDNF-responsive proteins which are important for learning and memory. The comparison between J147 and donepezil in the scopolamine model showed that while both compounds were comparable at rescuing short term memory, J147 was superior at rescuing spatial memory and a combination of the two worked best for contextual and cued memory.
J147 is an exciting new compound that is extremely potent, safe in animal studies and orally active. J147 is a potential AD therapeutic due to its ability to provide immediate cognition benefits, and it also has the potential to halt and perhaps reverse disease progression in symptomatic animals as demonstrated in these studies.
PMCID: PMC3706879  PMID: 23673233
9.  Longitudinal analysis of the behavioral phenotype in a novel transgenic rat model of early stages of Alzheimer's disease 
Intraneuronal accumulation of amyloid β (iAβ) has been linked to mild cognitive impairment that may precede Alzheimer's disease (AD) onset. This neuropathological trait was recently mimicked in a novel animal model of AD, the hemizygous transgenic McGill-R-Thy1-APP (Tg+/−) rat. The characterization of the behavioral phenotypes in this animal model could provide a baseline of efficacy for earlier therapeutic interventions. The aim of the present study was to undertake a longitudinal study of Aβ accumulation and a comprehensive behavioral evaluation of this transgenic rat model. We assessed exploratory activity, anxiety-related behaviors, recognition memory, working memory, spatial learning and reference memory at 3, 6, and 12 months of age. In parallel, we measured Aβ by ELISA, Western blots and semiquantitative immunohistochemistry in hippocampal samples. SDS-soluble Aβ peptide accumulated at low levels (~9 pg/mg) without differences among ages. However, Western blots showed SDS-resistant Aβ oligomers (~30 kDa) at 6 and 12 months, but not at 3 months. When compared to wild-type (WT), male Tg+/− rats exhibited a spatial reference memory deficit in the Morris Water Maze (MWM) as early as 3 months of age, which persisted at 6 and 12 months. In addition, Tg+/− rats displayed a working memory impairment in the Y-maze and higher anxiety levels in the Open Field (OF) at 6 and 12 months of age, but not at 3 months. Exploratory activity in the OF was similar to that of WT at all-time points. Spatial learning in the MWM and the recognition memory, as assessed by the Novel Object Recognition Test, were unimpaired at any time point. The data from the present study demonstrate that the hemizygous transgenic McGill-R-Thy1-APP rat has a wide array of behavioral and cognitive impairments from young adulthood to middle-age. The low Aβ burden and early emotional and cognitive deficits in this transgenic rat model supports its potential use for drug discovery purposes in early AD.
PMCID: PMC4165352  PMID: 25278855
Alzheimer's disease; cognitive impairment; anxiety; amyloid β; transgenic rat models
10.  Alzheimer's Therapeutics Targeting Amyloid Beta 1–42 Oligomers I: Abeta 42 Oligomer Binding to Specific Neuronal Receptors Is Displaced by Drug Candidates That Improve Cognitive Deficits 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111898.
Synaptic dysfunction and loss caused by age-dependent accumulation of synaptotoxic beta amyloid (Abeta) 1–42 oligomers is proposed to underlie cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Alterations in membrane trafficking induced by Abeta oligomers mediates reduction in neuronal surface receptor expression that is the basis for inhibition of electrophysiological measures of synaptic plasticity and thus learning and memory. We have utilized phenotypic screens in mature, in vitro cultures of rat brain cells to identify small molecules which block or prevent the binding and effects of Abeta oligomers. Synthetic Abeta oligomers bind saturably to a single site on neuronal synapses and induce deficits in membrane trafficking in neuronal cultures with an EC50 that corresponds to its binding affinity. The therapeutic lead compounds we have found are pharmacological antagonists of Abeta oligomers, reducing the binding of Abeta oligomers to neurons in vitro, preventing spine loss in neurons and preventing and treating oligomer-induced deficits in membrane trafficking. These molecules are highly brain penetrant and prevent and restore cognitive deficits in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. Counter-screening these compounds against a broad panel of potential CNS targets revealed they are highly potent and specific ligands of the sigma-2/PGRMC1 receptor. Brain concentrations of the compounds corresponding to greater than 80% receptor occupancy at the sigma-2/PGRMC1 receptor restore cognitive function in transgenic hAPP Swe/Ldn mice. These studies demonstrate that synthetic and human-derived Abeta oligomers act as pharmacologically-behaved ligands at neuronal receptors - i.e. they exhibit saturable binding to a target, they exert a functional effect related to their binding and their displacement by small molecule antagonists blocks their functional effect. The first-in-class small molecule receptor antagonists described here restore memory to normal in multiple AD models and sustain improvement long-term, representing a novel mechanism of action for disease-modifying Alzheimer's therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4229098  PMID: 25390368
11.  Validation of a 2-day water maze protocol in mice 
Behavioural brain research  2008;196(2):220-227.
We present a 2-day water maze protocol that addresses some of potential confounds present in the water maze when using the aged subjects typical of studies of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. This protocol is based on an initial series of training trials with a visible platform, followed by a memory test with a hidden platform 24 h later. We validated this procedure using aged (15–18 m) mice expressing three Alzheimer’s disease-related transgenes, PS1(M146 V), APP(Swe), and tau(P301L). We also tested these triple transgenic mice (3xTG) and age and sex-matched wild-type (WT) in a behavioral battery consisting of tests of motor coordination (balance beam), spatial memory (object displacement task) visual acuity (novel object recognition task) and locomotor activity (open field). 3xTG mice had significantly longer escape latencies in the memory trial of the 2-day water maze test than WT and than their own baseline performance in the last visible platform trial. In addition, this protocol had improved sensitivity compared to a typical probe trial, since no significant differences between genotypes were evident in a probe trial conducted 24 h after the final training trial. The 2-day procedure also resulted in good reliability between cohorts, and controlled for non-cognitive factors that can confound water maze assessments of memory, such as the significantly lower locomotor activity evident in the 3xTG mice. A further benefit of this method is that large numbers of animals can be tested in a short time.
PMCID: PMC4303046  PMID: 18831990
Aging; Novel object placement task; Novel object recognition task; Spatial memory; Alzheimer’s disease; Sex differences; Water maze
12.  Aβ reduction in BACE1 heterozygous null 5XFAD mice is associated with transgenic APP level 
The β-secretase, BACE1, cleaves APP to initiate generation of the β-amyloid peptide, Aβ, that comprises amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Reducing BACE1 activity is an attractive therapeutic approach to AD, but complete inhibition of BACE1 could have mechanism-based side-effects as BACE1−/− mice show deficits in axon guidance, myelination, memory, and other neurological processes. Since BACE1+/− mice appear normal there is interest in determining whether 50% reduction in BACE1 is potentially effective in preventing or treating AD. APP transgenic mice heterozygous for BACE1 have decreased Aβ but the extent of reduction varies greatly from study to study. Here we assess the effects of 50% BACE1 reduction on the widely used 5XFAD mouse model of AD.
50% BACE1 reduction reduces Aβ42, plaques, and BACE1-cleaved APP fragments in female, but not in male, 5XFAD/BACE1+/− mice. 5XFAD/BACE1+/+ females have higher levels of Aβ42 and steady-state transgenic APP than males, likely caused by an estrogen response element in the transgene Thy-1 promoter. We hypothesize that higher transgenic APP level in female 5XFAD mice causes BACE1 to no longer be in excess over APP so that 50% BACE1 reduction has a significant Aβ42 lowering effect. In contrast, the lower APP level in 5XFAD males allows BACE1 to be in excess over APP even at 50% BACE1 reduction, preventing lowering of Aβ42 in 5XFAD/BACE1+/− males. We also developed and validated a dot blot assay with an Aβ42-selective antibody as an accurate and cost-effective alternative to ELISA for measuring cerebral Aβ42 levels.
50% BACE1 reduction lowers Aβ42 in female 5XFAD mice only, potentially because BACE1 is not in excess over APP in 5XFAD females with higher transgene expression, while BACE1 is in excess over APP in 5XFAD males with lower transgene expression. Our results suggest that greater than 50% BACE1 inhibition might be necessary to significantly lower Aβ, given that BACE1 is likely to be in excess over APP in the human brain. Additionally, in experiments using the 5XFAD mouse model, or other Thy-1 promoter transgenic mice, equal numbers of male and female mice should be used, in order to avoid artifactual gender-related differences.
PMCID: PMC4297413  PMID: 25567526
β-secretase; Amyloid precursor protein; Alzheimer’s disease; APP transgenic mouse models; 5XFAD; BACE1 heterozygous; Amyloid; Aβ; Dot blot; Estrogen response element
13.  The effect of cadmium on Aβ levels in APP/PS1 transgenic mice 
Cadmium (Cd), which is a poisonous trace element, has been reported extensively to lead to morphological and biochemical abnormalities of the central nervous system, memory loss and mental retardation. We studied the Alzheimer’s disease-related toxicity of Cd in a mouse model [amyloid precursor protein (APP)/ presenilin 1 (PS1) transgenic mice, dual transfection of APP695swe and mutated PS1 genes]. Behavioral changes were detected using the Morris water maze test. The β-amyloid protein (Aβ) levels were determined using immunohistochemistry and ELISA. The free zinc ion concentration in mouse brain was determined using autometallography. The protein expression of α-secretase, soluble APPα (sAPPα) and neutral endopeptidase (NEP) in the mouse cerebral cortex and hippocampus was detected using western blotting. We found that Cd treatment increased the latency and distance of the platform search and reduced the number of platform crossings. The number and size of senile plaques in the brains of Cd-treated mice were significantly increased. The levels of Aβ1-42 and free zinc ions were increased. The expression of ADAM10, sAPPα and NEP protein was reduced. We speculated that Cd reduced the expression of ADAM10, sAPPα and NEP protein, which caused an increase in the levels of Aβ1-42 and free zinc ions and led to the accelerated Aβ deposition found in the experimental animals and their abnormal behavior.
PMCID: PMC3460286  PMID: 23060935
Alzheimer’s disease; cadmium; zinc; amyloid precursor protein; α-secretase; soluble amyloid precursor protein α; neutral endopeptidase
14.  Elevated mRNA-Levels of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone and Its Receptor in Plaque-Bearing Alzheimer's Disease Transgenic Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103607.
Research on Alzheimer's disease (AD) has indicated an association between hormones of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal (HPG) axis and cognitive senescence, indicating that post meno-/andropausal changes in HPG axis hormones are implicated in the neuropathology of AD. Studies of transgenic mice with AD pathologies have led to improved understanding of the pathophysiological processes underlying AD. The aims of this study were to explore whether mRNA-levels of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gnrh) and its receptor (Gnrhr) were changed in plaque-bearing Alzheimer's disease transgenic mice and to investigate whether these levels and amyloid plaque deposition were downregulated by treatment with a gonadotropin-releasing hormone analog (Gnrh-a; Leuprorelin acetate). The study was performed on mice carrying the Arctic and Swedish amyloid-β precursor protein (AβPP) mutations (tgArcSwe). At 12 months of age, female tgArcSwe mice showed a twofold higher level of Gnrh mRNA and more than 1.5 higher level of Gnrhr mRNA than age matched controls. Male tgArcSwe mice showed the same pattern of changes, albeit more pronounced. In both sexes, Gnrh-a treatment caused significant down-regulation of Gnrh and Gnrhr mRNA expression. Immunohistochemistry combined with quantitative image analysis revealed no significant changes in the plaque load after Gnrh-a treatment in hippocampus and thalamus. However, plaque load in the cerebral cortex of treated females tended to be lower than in female vehicle-treated mice. The present study points to the involvement of hormonal changes in AD mice models and demonstrates that these changes can be effectively counteracted by pharmacological treatment. Although known to increase in normal aging, our study shows that Gnrh/Gnrhr mRNA expression increases much more dramatically in tgArcSwe mice. Treatment with Leuprorelin acetate successfully abolished the transgene specific effects on Gnrh/Gnrhr mRNA expression. The present experimental approach should serve as a platform for further studies on the usefulness of Gnrh-a treatment in suppressing plaque development in AD.
PMCID: PMC4121068  PMID: 25089901
15.  Decreased Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Depends on Amyloid Aggregation State in Transgenic Mouse Models of Alzheimer’s Disease 
Downregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the cortex occurs early in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Since BDNF plays a critical role in neuronal survival, synaptic plasticity, and memory, BDNF reduction may contribute to synaptic and cellular loss and memory deficits characteristic of AD. In vitro evidence suggests that amyloid-β (Aβ) contributes to BDNF downregulation in AD, but the specific Aβ aggregation state responsible for this downregulation in vivo is unknown. In the present study, we examined cortical levels of BDNF mRNA in three different transgenic AD mouse models harboring mutations in APP resulting in Aβ overproduction, and in a genetic mouse model of Down syndrome. Two of the three Aβ transgenic strains (APPNLh and TgCRND8) exhibited significantly decreased cortical BDNF mRNA levels compared with wild-type mice, whereas neither the other strain (APP swe/PS-1) nor the Down syndrome mouse model (Ts65Dn) was affected. Only APPNLh and TgCRND8 mice expressed high Aβ42/Aβ40 ratios and larger SDS-stable Aβ oligomers (~115 kDa). TgCRND8 mice exhibited downregulation of BDNF transcripts III and IV; transcript IV is also downregulated in AD. Furthermore, in all transgenic mouse strains, there was a correlation between levels of large oligomers, Aβ42/Aβ40, and severity of BDNF decrease. These data show that the amount and species of Aβ vary among transgenic mouse models of AD and are negatively correlated with BDNF levels. These findings also suggest that the effect of Aβ on decreased BDNF expression is specific to the aggregation state of Aβ and is dependent on large oligomers.
PMCID: PMC3411546  PMID: 19625522 CAMSID: cams2275
16.  ProNGF\NGF imbalance triggers learning and memory deficits, neurodegeneration and spontaneous epileptic-like discharges in transgenic mice 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2013;20(8):1017-1030.
ProNGF, the precursor of mature nerve growth factor (NGF), is the most abundant form of NGF in the brain. ProNGF and mature NGF differ significantly in their receptor interaction properties and in their bioactivity. ProNGF increases markedly in the cortex of Alzheimer's disease (AD) brains and proNGF\NGF imbalance has been postulated to play a role in neurodegeneration. However, a direct proof for a causal link between increased proNGF and AD neurodegeneration is lacking. In order to evaluate the consequences of increased levels of proNGF in the postnatal brain, transgenic mice expressing a furin cleavage-resistant form of proNGF, under the control of the neuron-specific mouse Thy1.2 promoter, were derived and characterized. Different transgenic lines displayed a phenotypic gradient of neurodegenerative severity features. We focused the analysis on the two lines TgproNGF#3 and TgproNGF#72, which shared learning and memory impairments in behavioral tests, cholinergic deficit and increased Aβ-peptide immunoreactivity. In addition, TgproNGF#3 mice developed Aβ oligomer immunoreactivity, as well as late diffuse astrocytosis. Both TgproNGF lines also display electrophysiological alterations related to spontaneous epileptic-like events. The results provide direct evidence that alterations in the proNGF/NGF balance in the adult brain can be an upstream driver of neurodegeneration, contributing to a circular loop linking alterations of proNGF/NGF equilibrium to excitatory/inhibitory synaptic imbalance and amyloid precursor protein (APP) dysmetabolism.
PMCID: PMC3705592  PMID: 23538417
neurotrophin; Alzheimer; cholinergic deficit; NGF; proNGF; neurodegeneration
17.  Comprehensive Behavioral Phenotyping of Ts65Dn Mouse Model of Down Syndrome: Activation of β1-Adrenergic Receptor by Xamoterol as a Potential Cognitive Enhancer 
Neurobiology of disease  2011;43(2):397-413.
Down Syndrome (DS) is the most prevalent form of mental retardation caused by genetic abnormalities in humans. This has been successfully modeled in mice to generate the Ts65Dn mouse, a genetic model of DS. This transgenic mouse model shares a number of physical and functional abnormalities with people with DS, including changes in the structure and function of neuronal circuits. Significant abnormalities in noradrenergic (NE-ergic) afferents from the locus coeruleus to the hippocampus, as well as deficits in NE-ergic neurotransmission are detected in these animals.
In the current study we characterized in detail the behavioral phenotype of Ts65Dn mice, in addition to using pharmacological tools for identification of target receptors mediating the learning and memory deficits observed in this model of DS. We undertook a comprehensive approach to mouse phenotyping using a battery of standard and novel tests encompassing: i) locomotion (Activity Chamber, PhenoTyper, and CatWalk), ii) learning and memory (spontaneous alternation, delayed matching-to-place water maze, fear conditioning, and Intellicage), and iii) social behavior.
Ts65Dn mice showed increased locomotor activity in novel and home cage environments. There were significant and reproducible deficits in learning and memory tests including spontaneous alternation, delayed matching-to-place water maze, Intellicage place avoidance and contextual fear conditioning. Although Ts65Dn mice showed no deficit in sociability in the 3-chamber test, a marked impairment in social memory was detected. Xamoterol, a β1-adrenergic receptor (β1-ADR) agonist, effectively restored the memory deficit in contextual fear conditioning, spontaneous alternation and novel object recognition. These behavioral improvements were reversed by betaxolol, a selective β1-ADR antagonist.
In conclusion, our results demonstrate that this mouse model of Down Syndrome display cognitive deficits which is mediated by imbalance in noradrenergic system. In this experimental model of Down Syndrome a selective activation of β1-ADR does restore some of these behavioral deficits. Further mechanistic studies will be needed to investigate the failure of noradrenergic system and the role of β1-ADR in cognitive deficit and pathogenesis of DS in people. Restoring NE neurotransmission or a selective activation of β1-ADR need to be further investigated for development of any potential therapeutic strategies for symptomatic relieve of memory deficit in DS. Furthermore, due to the significant involvement of noradrenergic system in the cardiovascular function further safety and translational studies will be needed to ensure the safety and efficacy of this approach.
PMCID: PMC3539757  PMID: 21527343
Down Syndrome; behavior; Ts65Dn mouse; memory; social interaction; xamoterol; betaxolol; noradrenergic system; neurodegenerative disorder
18.  Limited clearance of pre-existing amyloid plaques after intracerebral injection of Aβ antibodies in two mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease 
Recent studies have demonstrated the potential utility of antibodies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In transgenic mouse models of AD, peripheral and intracerebral administration of Aβ-specific antibodies reduces amyloid burdens to varied extents. The mechanism may involve clearance of pre-existing amyloid plaques or prevention of new amyloid formation. Here we have used two transgenic models, the inducible CamKII-ttAxtetAPP/swe/ind (Line 107) and the APPswe/PS1dE9 (Line 85), to test the ability of intracerebral injection of Aβ antibodies to clear amyloid. Because the production of Aβ peptides in the Line 107 model is inducible, whereas production in Line 85 mice is constitutive, we could study the effects of antibody on pre-existing plaques versus continuous plaque formation. In Line 85, injection of antibody resulted in modest but statistically significant reductions in amyloid burden (average, 14–16%). However, injected antibodies had no effect on amyloid burden in Line 107 under conditions in which the production of Aβ was suppressed, indicating that pre-existing plaques are not rapidly cleared. These results indicate that, in these two models, intracerebral injection of Aβ antibodies produces modest reductions in amyloid deposition; and suggest that the mechanism may involve prevention of new amyloid deposits rather than clearance of pre-existing plaques.
PMCID: PMC3972013  PMID: 18091561
Alzheimer’s disease; AD; immunotherapy; Aβ; antibody; amyloid precursor protein; APP
19.  Thy-1 Attenuates TNF-α-Activated Gene Expression in Mouse Embryonic Fibroblasts via Src Family Kinase 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11662.
Heterogeneous surface expression of Thy-1 in fibroblasts modulates inflammation and may thereby modulate injury and repair. As a paradigm, patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease with pathologic features of chronic inflammation, demonstrate an absence of Thy-1 immunoreactivity within areas of fibrotic activity (fibroblast foci) in contrast to the predominant Thy-1 expressing fibroblasts in the normal lung. Likewise, Thy-1 deficient mice display more severe lung fibrosis in response to an inflammatory injury than wildtype littermates. We investigated the role of Thy-1 in the response of fibroblasts to the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α. Our study demonstrates distinct profiles of TNF-α-activated gene expression in Thy-1 positive (Thy-1+) and negative (Thy-1−) subsets of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEF). TNF-α induced a robust activation of MMP-9, ICAM-1, and the IL-8 promoter driven reporter in Thy-1− MEFs, in contrast to only a modest increase in Thy-1+ counterparts. Consistently, ectopic expression of Thy-1 in Thy-1− MEFs significantly attenuated TNF-α-activated gene expression. Mechanistically, TNF-α activated Src family kinase (SFK) only in Thy-1− MEFs. Blockade of SFK activation abrogated TNF-α-activated gene expression in Thy-1− MEFs, whereas restoration of SFK activation rescued the TNF-α response in Thy-1+ MEFs. Our findings suggest that Thy-1 down-regulates TNF-α-activated gene expression via interfering with SFK- and NF-κB-mediated transactivation. The current study provides a novel mechanistic insight to the distinct roles of fibroblast Thy-1 subsets in inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2906514  PMID: 20657842
20.  Cerebrolysin™ efficacy in a transgenic model of tauopathy: role in regulation of mitochondrial structure 
BMC Neuroscience  2014;15(1):90.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Fronto temporal lobar dementia (FTLD) are common causes of dementia in the aging population for which limited therapeutical options are available. These disorders are associated with Tau accumulation. We have previously shown that CerebrolysinTM (CBL), a neuropeptide mixture with neurotrophic effects, ameliorates the behavioral deficits and neuropathological alterations in amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic (tg) mouse model of AD by reducing hyper-phosphorylated Tau. CBL has been tested in clinical trials for AD, however it’s potential beneficial effects in FTLD are unknown. For this purpose we sought to investigate the effects of CBL in a tg model of tauopathy. Accordingly, double tg mice expressing mutant Tau under the mThy-1 promoter and GSK3β (to enhance Tau phosphorylation) were treated with CBL and evaluated neuropathologically.
Compared to single Tau tg mice the Tau/GSK3β double tg model displayed elevated levels of Tau phosphorylation and neurodegeneration in the hippocampus. CBL treatment reduced the levels of Tau phosphorylation in the dentate gyrus and the degeneration of pyramidal neurons in the temporal cortex and hippocampus of the Tau/GSK3β double tg mice. Interestingly, the Tau/GSK3β double tg mice also displayed elevated levels of Dynamin-related protein-1 (Drp-1), a protein that hydrolyzes GTP and is required for mitochondrial division. Ultrastructural analysis of the mitochondria in the Tau/GSK3β double tg mice demonstrated increased numbers and fragmentation of mitochondria in comparison to non-tg mice. CBL treatment normalized levels of Drp-1 and restored mitochondrial structure.
These results suggest that the ability of CBL to ameliorate neurodegenerative pathology in the tauopathy model may involve reducing accumulation of hyper-phosphorylated Tau and reducing alterations in mitochondrial biogenesis associated with Tau.
PMCID: PMC4122761  PMID: 25047000
Tau; GSK3β; Drp-1; Neuroprotection; Alzheimer’s disease; Tauopathies
Translational neuroscience  2013;4(1):8-19.
Transgenic mouse models with knock-in (KI) expression of human mutant amyloid precursor protein (APP) and/or human presenilin 1 (PS1) may be helpful to elucidate the cellular consequences of APP and PS1 misprocessing in the aging brain. Age-related alterations in total numbers of neurons and in numbers of synaptophysin-immunoreactive presynaptic boutons (SIPB), as well as the amyloid plaque load were analyzed in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG), CA3, and CA1–2 of 2- and 10-month-old APPSL/PS1 homozygous KI, APPSL (expressing human mutant APP751 carrying the Swedish [K670N/M671L] and London [V717I] mutations under Thy-1 promoter), and PS1 homozygous KI mice (expressing human PS1 mutations [M233T and L235P]). APPSL/PS1 homozygous KI mice, but neither APPSL mice nor PS1 homozygous KI mice, showed substantial age-related loss of neurons (−47.2%) and SIPB (−22.6%), specifically in CA1–2. PS1 homozygous KI mice showed an age-related increase in hippocampal granule cell numbers (+37.9%). Loss of neurons and SIPB greatly exceeded the amount of local extracellular Aβ aggregation and astrocytes, whereas region-specific accumulation of intraneuronal Aβ preceded neuron and synapse loss. An age-related increase in the ratio of SIPB to neuron numbers in CA1–2 of APPSL/PS1 homozygous KI mice was suggestive of compensatory synaptic plasticity. These findings indicate a region-selectivity in intra- and extraneuronal Aβ accumulation in connection with neuron and synapse loss in the hippocampus of APPSL/PS1 homozygous KI mice.
PMCID: PMC4018205  PMID: 24829793
Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid precursor protein; Neuron loss; Synapse loss; Hippocampus; Presenilin-1; Stereology; Image analysis
22.  Olfactory deficits in mice overexpressing human wildtype α-synuclein 
Accumulation of α-synuclein in neurons of the central and peripheral nervous system is a hallmark of sporadic Parkinson’s disease (PD) and mutations that increase α-synuclein levels cause familial PD. Transgenic mice overexpressing α-synuclein under the Thy1 promoter (Thy1-aSyn) have high levels of α-synuclein expression throughout the brain but no loss of nigrostriatal dopamine neurons up to 8 months, suggesting that they may be useful to model pre-clinical stages of PD. Olfactory dysfunction often precedes the onset of the cardinal motor symptoms of PD by several years and includes deficits in odor detection, discrimination and identification. In the present study, we measured olfactory function in 3- and 9-month-old male Thy1-aSyn mice with a buried pellet test based on latency to find an exposed or hidden odorant, a block test based on exposure to self and non-self odors, and a habituation/dishabituation test based on exposure to non-social odors. In a separate group of mice, α-synuclein immunoreactivity was assessed in the olfactory bulb. Compared with wildtype littermates, Thy1-aSyn mice could still detect and habituate to odors but showed olfactory impairments in aspects of all three testing paradigms. Thy1-aSyn mice also displayed proteinase K-resistant α-synuclein inclusions throughout the olfactory bulb. These data indicate that overexpression of α-synuclein is sufficient to cause olfactory deficits in mice similar to that observed in patients with PD. Furthermore, the buried pellet and block tests provided sufficient power for the detection of a 50% drug effect, indicating their usefulness for testing novel neuroprotective therapies.
PMCID: PMC3108548  PMID: 18702696
behavior; movement; odor; olfaction; Parkinson’s disease
23.  Using mice to model Alzheimer's dementia: an overview of the clinical disease and the preclinical behavioral changes in 10 mouse models 
The goal of this review is to discuss how behavioral tests in mice relate to the pathological and neuropsychological features seen in human Alzheimer's disease (AD), and present a comprehensive analysis of the temporal progression of behavioral impairments in commonly used AD mouse models that contain mutations in amyloid precursor protein (APP). We begin with a brief overview of the neuropathological changes seen in the AD brain and an outline of some of the clinical neuropsychological assessments used to measure cognitive deficits associated with the disease. This is followed by a critical assessment of behavioral tasks that are used in AD mice to model the cognitive changes seen in the human disease. Behavioral tests discussed include spatial memory tests [Morris water maze (MWM), radial arm water maze (RAWM), Barnes maze], associative learning tasks (passive avoidance, fear conditioning), alternation tasks (Y-Maze/T-Maze), recognition memory tasks (Novel Object Recognition), attentional tasks (3 and 5 choice serial reaction time), set-shifting tasks, and reversal learning tasks. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each of these behavioral tasks, and how they may correlate with clinical assessments in humans. Finally, the temporal progression of both cognitive and non-cognitive deficits in 10 AD mouse models (PDAPP, TG2576, APP23, TgCRND8, J20, APP/PS1, TG2576 + PS1 (M146L), APP/PS1 KI, 5×FAD, and 3×Tg-AD) are discussed in detail. Mouse models of AD and the behavioral tasks used in conjunction with those models are immensely important in contributing to our knowledge of disease progression and are a useful tool to study AD pathophysiology and the resulting cognitive deficits. However, investigators need to be aware of the potential weaknesses of the available preclinical models in terms of their ability to model cognitive changes observed in human AD. It is our hope that this review will assist investigators in selecting an appropriate mouse model, and accompanying behavioral paradigms to investigate different aspects of AD pathology and disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4005958  PMID: 24795750
Alzheimer's disease; mouse models; neuropsychological assessment; behavior; cognition; APP mice; APP/PS1 mice; 3×TG-AD mice
24.  Neurofibrillary and neurodegenerative pathology in APP-transgenic mice injected with AAV2-mutant TAU: neuroprotective effects of Cerebrolysin 
Acta neuropathologica  2009;117(6):699-712.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) continues to be the most common cause of cognitive and motor alterations in the aging population. Accumulation of amyloid β (Aβ)-protein oligomers and the microtubule associated protein-TAU might be responsible for the neurological damage. We have previously shown that Cerebrolysin (CBL) reduces the synaptic and behavioral deficits in amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic (tg) mice by decreasing APP phosphorylation via modulation of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β) and cyclin-dependent kinase-5 (CDK5) activity. These kinases also regulate TAU phosphorylation and are involved in promoting neurofibrillary pathology. In order to investigate the neuroprotective effects of CBL on TAU pathology, a new model for neurofibrillary alterations was developed using somatic gene transfer with adeno-associated virus (AAV2)-mutant (mut) TAU (P301L). The Thy1-APP tg mice (3 m/o) received bilateral injections of AAV2-mutTAU or AAV2-GFP, into the hippocampus. After 3 months, compared to non-tg controls, in APP tg mice intra-hippocampal injections with AAV2-mutTAU resulted in localized increased accumulation of phosphorylated TAU and neurodegeneration. Compared with vehicle controls, treatment with CBL in APP tg injected with AAV2-mutTAU resulted in a significant decrease in the levels of TAU phosphorylation at critical sites dependent on GSK3β and CDK5 activity. This was accompanied by amelioration of the neurodegenerative alterations in the hippocampus. This study supports the concept that the neuroprotective effects of CBL may involve the reduction of TAU phosphorylation by regulating kinase activity.
PMCID: PMC3049872  PMID: 19252918
Alzheimer’s; Amyloid precursor protein; Phosphorylation; Kinase; Hippocampus; Viral vector
25.  Normal cognition in transgenic BRI2-Aβ mice 
Recent research in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) field has been focused on the potential role of the amyloid-β protein that is derived from the transmembrane amyloid precursor protein (APP) in directly mediating cognitive impairment in AD. Transgenic mouse models overexpressing APP develop robust AD-like amyloid pathology in the brain and show various levels of cognitive decline. In the present study, we examined the cognition of the BRI2-Aβ transgenic mouse model in which secreted extracellular Aβ1-40, Aβ1-42 or both Aβ1-40/Aβ1-42 peptides are generated from the BRI-Aβ fusion proteins encoded by the transgenes. BRI2-Aβ mice produce high levels of Aβ peptides and BRI2-Aβ1-42 mice develop amyloid pathology that is similar to the pathology observed in mutant human APP transgenic models.
Using established behavioral tests that reveal deficits in APP transgenic models, BRI2-Aβ1-42 mice showed completely intact cognitive performance at ages both pre and post amyloid plaque formation. BRI2-Aβ mice producing Aβ1-40 or both peptides were also cognitively intact.
These data indicate that high levels of Aβ1-40 or Aβ1-42, or both produced in the absence of APP overexpression do not reproduce memory deficits observed in APP transgenic mouse models. This outcome is supportive of recent data suggesting that APP processing derivatives or the overexpression of full length APP may contribute to cognitive decline in APP transgenic mouse models. Alternatively, Aβ aggregates may impact cognition by a mechanism that is not fully recapitulated in these BRI2-Aβ mouse models.
PMCID: PMC3658944  PMID: 23663320
Alzheimer’s disease; Mouse models; Amyloid-β; Amyloid plaques; Cognition

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