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1.  Proteomic Identification of Brain Proteins in the Canine Model of Human Aging Following a Long-Term Treatment with Antioxidants and a Program of Behavioral Enrichment: Relevance to Alzheimer’s Disease 
Neurobiology of aging  2006;29(1):51-70.
Aging and age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are usually accompanied by oxidative stress as one of the main mechanisms contributing to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. Aging canines develop cognitive dysfunction and neuropathology similar to those seen in humans, and the use of antioxidants results in reductions in oxidative damage and in improvement in cognitive function in this canine model of human aging. In the present study, the effect of a long-term treatment with an antioxidant fortified diet and a program of behavioral enrichment on oxidative damage was studied in aged canines. To identify the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these treatment effects, the parietal cortex from 23 beagle dogs (8.1-12.4 years) were treated for 2.8 years in one of four treatment groups: i.e., control food- control behavioral enrichment (CC); control food - behavioral enrichment (CE); antioxidant food-control behavioral enrichment (CA); and enriched environment - antioxidant fortified food (EA). We analyzed the levels of the oxidative stress biomarkers, i.e., protein carbonyls, 3-nitrotyroine (3NT), and the lipid peroxidation product, 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE), and observed a decrease in their levels on all treatments when compared to control, with the most significant effects found in the combined treatment, EA. Since EA treatment was most effective, we also carried out a comparative proteomics study to identify specific brain proteins that were differentially expressed and used a parallel redox proteomics approach to identify specific brain proteins that were less oxidized following EA. The specific protein carbonyl levels of glutamate dehydrogenase [NAD (P)], glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), α-enolase, neurofilament triplet L protein, glutathione S-transferase (GST) and fascin actin bundling protein were significantly reduced in brain of EA-treated dogs compared to control. We also observed significant increases in expression of Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase, fructose-bisphosphate aldolase C, creatine kinase, glutamate dehydrogenase and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase. The increased expression of these proteins and in particular Cu/Zn SOD correlated with improved cognitive function. In addition, there was a significant increase in the enzymatic activities of glutathione-S-transferase (GST) and total superoxide dismutase (SOD), and significant increase in the protein levels of heme oxygenase (HO-1) in EA treated dogs compared to control. These findings suggest that the combined treatment reduces the levels of oxidative damage and improves the antioxidant reserve systems in the aging canine brain, and may contribute to improvements in learning and memory. These observations provide insights into a possible neurobiological mechanism underlying the effects of the combined treatment. These results support the combination treatments as a possible therapeutic approach that could be translated to the aging human population who are at risk for age-related neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC2203613  PMID: 17055614
Oxidative stress; Canine; Cognition; Antioxidants; Aging; Behavioral enrichment; β-Amyloid; Redox proteomics; Memory; Cognition; Proteomics
2.  PiB Fails to Map Amyloid Deposits in Cerebral Cortex of Aged Dogs with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction 
Dogs with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) accumulate amyloid beta (Aβ) in the brain. As the cognitive decline and neuropathology of these old dogs share features with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the relation between Aβ and cognitive decline in animal models of cognitive decline is of interest to the understanding of AD. However, the sensitivity of the biomarker Pittsburgh Compound B (PiB) to the presence of Aβ in humans and in other mammalian species is in doubt. To test the sensitivity and assess the distribution of Aβ in dog brain, we mapped the brains of dogs with signs of CCD (n = 16) and a control group (n = 4) of healthy dogs with radioactively labeled PiB ([11C]PiB). Structural magnetic resonance imaging brain scans were obtained from each dog. Tracer washout analysis yielded parametric maps of PiB retention in brain. In the CCD group, dogs had significant retention of [11C]PiB in the cerebellum, compared to the cerebral cortex. Retention in the cerebellum is at variance with evidence from brains of humans with AD. To confirm the lack of sensitivity, we stained two dog brains with the immunohistochemical marker 6E10, which is sensitive to the presence of both Aβ and Aβ precursor protein (AβPP). The 6E10 stain revealed intracellular material positive for Aβ or AβPP, or both, in Purkinje cells. The brains of the two groups of dogs did not have significantly different patterns of [11C]PiB binding, suggesting that the material detected with 6E10 is AβPP rather than Aβ. As the comparison with the histological images revealed no correlation between the [11C]PiB and Aβ and AβPP deposits in post-mortem brain, the marked intracellular staining implies intracellular involvement of amyloid processing in the dog brain. We conclude that PET maps of [11C]PiB retention in brain of dogs with CCD fundamentally differ from the images obtained in most humans with AD.
PMCID: PMC3874561  PMID: 24416017
canine cognitive dysfunction; Alzheimer’s disease; Pittsburgh compound B; beta-amyloid; dog; 6E10 immunohistochemistry
3.  Antioxidants in the Canine Model of Human Aging 
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta  2011;1822(5):685-689.
Oxidative damage can lead to neuronal dysfunction in the brain due to modifications to proteins, lipids and DNA/RNA. In both human and canine brain, oxidative damage progressively increases with age. In the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brain, oxidative damage is further exacerbated, possibly due to increased deposition of beta-amyloid (Aβ) peptide in senile plaques. These observations have led to the hypothesis that antioxidants may be beneficial for brain aging and AD. Aged dogs naturally develop AD-like neuropathology (Aβ) and cognitive dysfunction and are a useful animal model in which to test antioxidants. In a longitudinal study of aging beagles, a diet rich in antioxidants improved cognition, maintained cognition and reduced oxidative damage and Aβ pathology in treated animals. These data suggest that antioxidants may be beneficial for human brain aging and for AD, particularly as a preventative intervention.
PMCID: PMC3291812  PMID: 22005070
Alzheimer disease; beagle; beta-amyloid; cognition; dog; lipoic acid; vitamins
4.  Canine Hereditary Ataxia in Old English Sheepdogs and Gordon Setters Is Associated with a Defect in the Autophagy Gene Encoding RAB24 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(2):e1003991.
Old English Sheepdogs and Gordon Setters suffer from a juvenile onset, autosomal recessive form of canine hereditary ataxia primarily affecting the Purkinje neuron of the cerebellar cortex. The clinical and histological characteristics are analogous to hereditary ataxias in humans. Linkage and genome-wide association studies on a cohort of related Old English Sheepdogs identified a region on CFA4 strongly associated with the disease phenotype. Targeted sequence capture and next generation sequencing of the region identified an A to C single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) located at position 113 in exon 1 of an autophagy gene, RAB24, that segregated with the phenotype. Genotyping of six additional breeds of dogs affected with hereditary ataxia identified the same polymorphism in affected Gordon Setters that segregated perfectly with phenotype. The other breeds tested did not have the polymorphism. Genome-wide SNP genotyping of Gordon Setters identified a 1.9 MB region with an identical haplotype to affected Old English Sheepdogs. Histopathology, immunohistochemistry and ultrastructural evaluation of the brains of affected dogs from both breeds identified dramatic Purkinje neuron loss with axonal spheroids, accumulation of autophagosomes, ubiquitin positive inclusions and a diffuse increase in cytoplasmic neuronal ubiquitin staining. These findings recapitulate the changes reported in mice with induced neuron-specific autophagy defects. Taken together, our results suggest that a defect in RAB24, a gene associated with autophagy, is highly associated with and may contribute to canine hereditary ataxia in Old English Sheepdogs and Gordon Setters. This finding suggests that detailed investigation of autophagy pathways should be undertaken in human hereditary ataxia.
Author Summary
Neurodegenerative diseases are one of the most important causes of decline in an aging population. An important subset of these diseases are known as the hereditary ataxias, familial neurodegenerative diseases that affect the cerebellum causing progressive gait disturbance in both humans and dogs. We identified a mutation in RAB24, a gene associated with autophagy, in Old English Sheepdogs and Gordon Setters with hereditary ataxia. Autophagy is a process by which cell proteins and organelles are removed and recycled and its critical role in maintenance of the continued health of cells is becoming clear. We evaluated the brains of affected dogs and identified accumulations of autophagosomes within the cerebellum, suggesting a defect in the autophagy pathway. Our results suggest that a defect in the autophagy pathway results in neuronal death in a naturally occurring disease in dogs. The autophagy pathway should be investigated in human hereditary ataxia and may represent a therapeutic target in neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC3916225  PMID: 24516392
5.  A Combination Cocktail Improves Spatial Attention in a Canine Model of Human Aging and Alzheimer's disease 
Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD  2012;32(4):1029-1042.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) involves multiple pathological processes in the brain, including increased inflammation and oxidative damage, as well as the accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) plaques. We hypothesized that a combinatorial therapeutic approach to target these multiple pathways may provide cognitive and neuropathological benefits for AD patients. To test this hypothesis, we used a canine model of human aging and AD. Aged dogs naturally develop learning and memory impairments, human-type Aβ deposits and oxidative damage in the brain. Thus, 9 aged beagles (98-115 months) were treated with a medical food cocktail containing (1) an extract of turmeric containing 95% curcuminoids; (2) an extract of green tea containing 50% epigallocatechingallate; (3) N-acetyl cysteine; (4) R-alpha lipoic acid; and (5) an extract of black pepper containing 95% piperine. Nine similarly aged dogs served as placebo-treated controls. After 3 months of treatment, 13 dogs completed a variable distance landmark task used as a measure of spatial attention. As compared to placebo-treated animals, dogs receiving the medical food cocktail had significantly lower error scores (t(11)=4.3, p=0.001) and were more accurate across all distances (F(1,9)=20.7, p=0.001), suggesting an overall improvement in spatial attention. Measures of visual discrimination learning, executive function and spatial memory, and levels of brain and CSF Aβ were unaffected by the cocktail. Our results indicate that this medical food cocktail may be beneficial for improving spatial attention and motivation deficits associated with impaired cognition in aging and AD.
PMCID: PMC4006672  PMID: 22886019
6.  A canine model of human aging and Alzheimer's disease☆ 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2013;1832(9):1384-1389.
The aged dog naturally develops cognitive decline in many different domains (including learning and memory) but also exhibits human-like individual variability in the aging process. The neurobiological basis for cognitive dysfunction may be related to structural changes that reflect neurodegeneration. Molecular cascades that contribute to degeneration in the aging dog brain include the progressive accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) in diffuse plaques and in the cerebral vasculature. In addition, neuronal dysfunction occurs as a consequence of mitochondrial dysfunction and cumulative oxidative damage. In combination, the aged dog captures key features of human aging, making them particularly useful for the development of preventive or therapeutic interventions to improve aged brain function. These interventions can then be translated into human clinical trials. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Animal Models of Disease.
PMCID: PMC3937962  PMID: 23528711
Beagle; Beta-amyloid; Cognition; Mild cognitive impairment; Oxidative damage
7.  Oxidative Stress, Aging and CNS disease in the Canine Model of Human Brain Aging 
Decline in cognitive functions that accompany aging in dogs may have a biological basis, and many of the disorders associated with aging in canines may be mitigated through dietary modifications that incorporate specific nutraceuticals. Based on previous research and the results of both laboratory and clinical studies – antioxidants may be one class of nutraceutical that provides benefits to aged dogs. Brains of aged dogs accumulate oxidative damage to proteins and lipids, which may lead to dysfunction of neuronal cells. The production of free radicals and lack of increase in compensatory antioxidant enzymes may lead to detrimental modifications to important macromolecules within neurons. Reducing oxidative damage through food ingredients rich in a broad spectrum of antioxidants significantly improves, or slows the decline of, learning and memory in aged dogs. However, determining all effective compounds and combinations, dosage ranges, as well as when to initiate intervention and long term effects constitute gaps in our current knowledge.
PMCID: PMC2390776  PMID: 18249248
antioxidants; beta-amyloid; behavior; cognition; mitochondrial co-factors; oxidative damage
8.  Assessment of nutritional interventions for modification of age-associated cognitive decline using a canine model of human aging 
Age  2005;27(1):27-37.
The present review focuses on the utility of a canine model in evaluating nutritional interventions for age-related cognitive dysfunction. Aged dogs demonstrate progressive cognitive decline with concurrent amyloid-beta pathology that parallels the pathology observed in aging humans. Dogs, therefore, provide a natural model of human pathological aging. We have and are in the process of evaluating several nutritional-based interventions aimed at preventing cognitive decline and brain aging. In a three-year longitudinal study, we examined the effects of a diet enriched with antioxidants and mitochondrial cofactors on several measures of cognition and brain aging. Compared to controls, aged dogs on the enriched diet demonstrated both short- and long-term cognitive benefits, as well decreased deposition of amyloid-beta protein. The diet also reduced behavioral signs associated with canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome when assessed in veterinary clinical trials. We also have preliminary evidence suggesting a beneficial effect of a proprietary blend of docosahexaenoic acid and phospholipids on both cognitive and physiological measures. Collectively, our data indicate (1) that the dog, either in the laboratory or in the clinic, provides an important tool for assessing nutritional interventions and (2) that combination interventions aimed at several mechanisms of pathological aging may prove more effective than single nutritive components in human trials.
PMCID: PMC3456092  PMID: 23598601
aging; Alzheimer’s disease; antioxidants; brain pathology; canine model; cognitive dysfunction; docosahexaenoic acid; mitochondrial cofactors; nutritional interventions; phospholipids
9.  Prevention approaches in a preclinical canine model of Alzheimer’s disease: benefits and challenges 
Aged dogs spontaneously develop many features of human aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) including cognitive decline and neuropathology. In this review, we discuss age-dependent learning tasks, memory tasks, and functional measures that can be used in aged dogs for sensitive treatment outcome measures. Neuropathology that is linked to cognitive decline is described along with examples of treatment studies that show reduced neuropathology in aging dogs (dietary manipulations, behavioral enrichment, immunotherapy, and statins). Studies in canine show that multi-targeted approaches may be more beneficial than single pathway manipulations (e.g., antioxidants combined with behavioral enrichment). Aging canine studies show good predictive validity for human clinical trials outcomes (e.g., immunotherapy) and several interventions tested in dogs strongly support a prevention approach (e.g., immunotherapy and statins). Further, dogs are ideally suited for prevention studies as they the age because onset of cognitive decline and neuropathology strongly support longitudinal interventions that can be completed within a 3–5 year period. Disadvantages to using the canine model are that they lengthy, use labor-intensive comprehensive cognitive testing, and involve costly housing (almost as high as that of non-human primates). However, overall, using the dog as a preclinical model for testing preventive approaches for AD may complement work in rodents and non-human primates.
PMCID: PMC3968758  PMID: 24711794
antioxidant diet; atorvastatin; behavioral enrichment; beta-amyloid; combination treatment; dog; immunotherapy; statin
10.  Neurovascular mechanisms and blood–brain barrier disorder in Alzheimer’s disease 
Acta neuropathologica  2009;118(1):103-113.
Vascular dysfunction has a critical role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Recent data from brain imaging studies in humans and animal models suggest that cerebrovascular dysfunction may precede cognitive decline and onset of neurodegenerative changes in AD and AD models. Cerebral hypoperfusion and impaired amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) clearance across the blood–brain barrier (BBB) may contribute to the onset and progression of dementia AD type. Decreased cerebral blood flow (CBF) negatively affects the synthesis of proteins required for memory and learning, and may eventually lead to neuritic injury and neuronal death. Impaired clearance of Aβ from the brain by the cells of the neurovascular unit may lead to its accumulation on blood vessels and in brain parenchyma. The accumulation of Aβ on the cerebral blood vessels, known as cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), is associated with cognitive decline and is one of the hallmarks of AD pathology. CAA can severely disrupt the integrity of the blood vessel wall resulting in micro or macro intracerebral bleedings that exacerbates neurodegenerative process and inflammatory response and may lead to hemorrhagic stroke, respectively.Here, we review the role of the neurovascular unit and molecular mechanisms in vascular cells behind AD and CAA pathogenesis. First, we discuss apparent vascular changes, including the cerebral hypoperfusion and vascular degeneration that contribute to different stages of the disease process in AD individuals. We next discuss the role of the low-density lipoprotein receptor related protein-1 (LRP), a key Aβ clearance receptor at the BBB and along the cerebrovascular system, whose expression is suppressed early in AD. We also discuss how brain-derived apolipoprotein E isoforms may influence Aβ clearance across the BBB. We then review the role of two interacting transcription factors, myocardin and serum response factor, in cerebral vascular cells in controlling CBF responses and LRP-mediated Aβ clearance. Finally, we discuss the role of microglia and perivascular macrophages in Aβ clearance from the brain. The data reviewed here support an essential role of neurovascular and BBB mechanisms in contributing to both, onset and progression of AD.
PMCID: PMC2853006  PMID: 19319544
Alzheimer’s disease; Neurovascular; Blood–brain barrier; Aβ; Clearance
11.  BDNF increases with behavioural enrichment and an antioxidant diet in the aged dog 
Neurobiology of Aging  2010;33(3):546-554.
The aged canine (dog) is an excellent model for investigating the neurobiological changes that underlie cognitive impairment and neurodegeneration in humans, as canines and humans undergo similar pathological and behavioural changes with aging. Recent evidence indicates that a combination of environmental enrichment and antioxidant-fortified diet can be used to reduce the rate of age-dependent neuropathology and cognitive decline in aged dogs, although the mechanisms underlying these changes have not been established. We examined the hypothesis that an increase in levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is one of the factors underlying improvements in learning and memory. Old, cognitively impaired animals that did not receive any treatment showed a significant decrease in BDNF mRNA in the temporal cortex when compared with the young group. Animals receiving either an antioxidant diet or environmental enrichment displayed intermediate levels of BDNF mRNA. However, dogs receiving both an antioxidant diet and environmental enrichment showed increased levels of BDNF mRNA when compared to untreated aged dogs, approaching levels measured in young animals. BDNF receptor TrkB mRNA levels did not differ between groups. BDNF mRNA levels were positively correlated with improved cognitive performance and inversely correlated with cortical Aβ(1–42) and Aβ(1–40) levels. These findings suggest that environmental enrichment and antioxidant diet interact to maintain brain levels of BDNF, which may lead to improved cognitive performance. This is the first demonstration in a higher animal that non-pharmacological changes in lifestyle in advanced age can up-regulate BDNF to levels approaching those in the young brain.
PMCID: PMC2935515  PMID: 20447733
Alzheimer’s disease; neurotrophin; amyloid; diet; environmental enrichment; antioxidant; mRNA
Experimental neurology  2009;220(1):171-176.
Dogs develop cognitive decline and a progressive accumulation of oxidative damage. In a previous longitudinal study, we demonstrated that aged dogs treated with either an antioxidant diet or with behavioral enrichment show cognitive improvement. The antioxidant diet included cellular antioxidants (Vitamins E, C, fruits and vegetables) and mitochondrial co-factors (lipoic acid and carnitine). Behavioral enrichment consisted of physical exercise, social enrichment and cognitive training. We hypothesized that the antioxidant treatment improved neuronal function through increased mitochondrial function. Thus, we measured reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and bioenergetics in mitochondria isolated from young, aged and treated aged animals. Aged canine brain mitochondria show significant increases in ROS production and a reduction in NADH-linked respiration. Mitochondrial function (ROS and NADH-linked respiration) was improved selectively in aged dogs treated with an antioxidant diet. In contrast behavioral enrichment had no effect on any mitochondrial parameters. These results suggest that an antioxidant diet improves cognition by maintaining mitochondrial homeostasis, which may be an independent molecular pathway not engaged by behavioral enrichment.
PMCID: PMC2761532  PMID: 19703441
beagle; carnitine; carbonyls; cognitive training; environmental enrichment; lipoic acid; vitamin E
13.  A rare homozygous MFSD8 single-base-pair deletion and frameshift in the whole genome sequence of a Chinese Crested dog with neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis 
BMC Veterinary Research  2015;10(1):960.
The neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses are heritable lysosomal storage diseases characterized by progressive neurological impairment and the accumulation of autofluorescent storage granules in neurons and other cell types. Various forms of human neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis have been attributed to mutations in at least 13 different genes. So far, mutations in the canine orthologs of 7 of these genes have been identified in DNA from dogs with neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. The identification of new causal mutations could lead to the establishment of canine models to investigate the pathogenesis of the corresponding human neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses and to evaluate and optimize therapeutic interventions for these fatal human diseases.
Case presentation
We obtained blood and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded brain sections from a rescue dog that was reported to be a young adult Chinese Crested. The dog was euthanized at approximately 19 months of age as a consequence of progressive neurological decline that included blindness, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. A diagnosis of neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis was made based on neurological signs, magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, and fluorescence microscopic and electron microscopic examination of brain sections. We isolated DNA from the blood and used it to generate a whole genome sequence with 33-fold average coverage. Among the 7.2 million potential sequence variants revealed by aligning the sequence reads to the canine genome reference sequence was a homozygous single base pair deletion in the canine ortholog of one of 13 known human NCL genes: MFSD8:c.843delT. MFSD8:c.843delT is predicted to cause a frame shift and premature stop codon resulting in a truncated protein, MFSD8:p.F282Lfs13*, missing its 239 C-terminal amino acids. The MFSD8:c.843delT allele is absent from the whole genome sequences of 101 healthy canids or dogs with other diseases. The genotyping of archived DNA from 1478 Chinese Cresteds did not identify any additional MFSD8:c.843delT homozygotes and found only one heterozygote.
We conclude that the neurodegenerative disease of the Chinese Crested rescue dog was neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis and that homozygosity for the MFSD8:c.843delT sequence variant was very likely to be the molecular-genetic cause of the disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12917-014-0181-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4298050  PMID: 25551667
MFSD8; Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis; Chinese Crested; Whole genome sequence
14.  C-reactive protein and alpha 1-acid glycoprotein levels in dogs infected with Ehrlichia canis. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1994;32(4):912-917.
To elucidate whether acute-phase protein responses occur in dogs infected with Ehrlichia canis, C-reactive protein (CRP) and alpha 1-acid glycoprotein (AAG) levels were serially measured in the plasma of five dogs experimentally inoculated with E. canis and 10 sham-inoculated or noninoculated control dogs. The CRP concentration was measured by a canine-specific capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and the AAG concentration was measured by a canine-specific radial immunodiffusion method. In all E. canis-inoculated dogs, a 3.3- to 6.5-fold increase in the plasma CRP concentration and a 1.9- to 8.6-fold increase in the plasma AAG concentration over the preinoculation level occurred at days 4 to 6 postexposure. Despite the persistence of E. canis and high antibody titers, both CRP and AAG concentrations gradually declined to preexposure levels by day 34 postexposure. E. canis-infected dogs had mild and transient clinical signs which resolved without treatment by day 14 postexposure. The CRP and AAG concentrations in control inoculated or nontreated dogs remained within the normal range throughout the experimental period. Of 12 dogs naturally infected with E. canis, 75% had greater than 50 micrograms of CRP per ml and 83% had greater than 500 micrograms of AAG per ml. All of these 12 dogs had chronic and severe clinical signs of canine ehrlichiosis. Thus, elevations in the levels of acute-phase proteins occur in both acute and chronic canine ehrlichiosis. Determination of CRP and AAG concentrations may help in assessing the severity of inflammatory damage in dogs with E. canis infections.
PMCID: PMC263162  PMID: 8027343
15.  Immunohistochemical study of N-epsilon-carboxymethyl lysine (CML) in human brain: relation to vascular dementia 
BMC Neurology  2007;7:35.
Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) and their receptor (RAGE) occur in dementia of the Alzheimer's type and diabetic microvascular disease. Accumulation of AGEs relates to risk factors for vascular dementia with ageing, including hypertension and diabetes. Cognitive dysfunction in vascular dementia may relate to microvascular disease resembling that in diabetes. We tested if, among people with cerebrovascular disease, (1) those with dementia have higher levels of neuronal and vascular AGEs and (2) if cognitive dysfunction depends on neuronal and/or vascular AGE levels.
Brain Sections from 25 cases of the OPTIMA (Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing) cohort, with varying degrees of cerebrovascular pathology and cognitive dysfunction (but only minimal Alzheimer type pathology) were immunostained for Nε-(carboxymethyl)-lysine (CML), the most abundant AGE. The level of staining in vessels and neurons in the cortex, white matter and basal ganglia was compared to neuropsychological and other clinical measures.
The probability of cortical neurons staining positive for CML was higher in cases with worse cognition (p = 0.01) or a history of hypertension (p = 0.028). Additionally, vascular CML staining related to cognitive impairment (p = 0.02) and a history of diabetes (p = 0.007). Neuronal CML staining in the basal ganglia related to a history of hypertension (p = 0.002).
CML staining in cortical neurons and cerebral vessels is related to the severity of cognitive impairment in people with cerebrovascular disease and only minimal Alzheimer pathology. These findings support the possibility that cerebral accumulation of AGEs may contribute to dementia in people with cerebrovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC2100062  PMID: 17939855
16.  Moderate Ethanol Preconditioning of Rat Brain Cultures Engenders Neuroprotection Against Dementia-Inducing Neuroinflammatory Proteins: Possible Signaling Mechanisms 
Molecular neurobiology  2010;41(2-3):420-425.
There is no question that chronic alcohol (ethanol) abuse, a leading worldwide problem, causes neuronal dysfunction and brain damage. However, various epidemiologic studies in recent years have indicated that in comparisons with abstainers or never-drinkers, light/moderate alcohol consumers have lower risks of age-dependent cognitive decline and/or dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Such reduced risks have been variously attributed to favorable circulatory and/or cerebrovascular effects of moderate ethanol intake, but they could also involve ethanol “preconditioning” phenomena in brain glia and neurons. Here we summarize our experimental studies showing that moderate ethanol preconditioning (MEP; 20–30 mM ethanol) of rat brain cultures prevents neurodegeneration due to β-amyloid, an important protein implicated in AD, and to other neuroinflammatory proteins such as gp120, the human immunodeficiency virus 1 envelope protein linked to AIDS dementia. The MEP neuroprotection is associated with suppression of neurotoxic protein-evoked initial increases in [Ca+2]i and proinflammatory mediators—e.g., superoxide anion, arachidonic acid, and glutamate. Applying a sensor → transducer → effector model to MEP, we find that onset of neuroprotection correlates temporally with elevations in “effector” heat shock proteins (HSP70, HSP27, and phospho-HSP27). The effector status of HSPs is supported by the fact that inhibiting HSP elevations due to MEP largely restores gp120-induced superoxide potentiation and subsequent neurotoxicity. As upstream mediators, synaptic N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors may be initial prosurvival sensors of ethanol, and protein kinase C epsilon and focal adhesion kinase are likely transducers during MEP that are essential for protective HSP elevations. Regarding human consumption, we speculate that moderate ethanol intake might counter incipient cognitive deterioration during advanced aging or AD by exerting preconditioning-like suppression of ongoing neuroinflammation related to amyloidogenic protein accumulation.
PMCID: PMC2908405  PMID: 20422315
Moderate ethanol preconditioning; Alzheimer’s disease; Neuroinflammatory proteins
17.  Spatial reversal learning is impaired by age in pet dogs 
Age  2013;35(6):2273-2282.
Aged dogs spontaneously develop progressive decline in both cognitive and behavioral function, in addition to neuropathological changes, that collectively parallel several aspects of human aging and Alzheimer’s disease progression and likely contribute to the development of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. In the current study, ethologically relevant spatial learning, retention, and reversal learning tasks were conducted, with the goal of expanding canine neuropsychological testing to pet dogs. Initially, dogs (N = 44, aged 7.8 ± 2.8 years, mean ± SD) had to learn which of two alternative routes successfully led out of a T-maze. Two weeks later, long-term memory retention was assessed, immediately followed by a reversal learning task in which the previously correct route out of the maze was reversed compared with the initial learning and memory retention tasks. No effects of age were evident on the learning or retention tasks. However, older (≥8 years) dogs were significantly impaired on the reversal learning task compared with younger ones (<8 years). Moreover, trial response latency was significantly increased in aged dogs across both the initial and reversal learning tasks but not on the retention task, which suggests that processing speed was impaired by increasing age during the acquisition of novel spatial information but not during performance of previously learned responses. Overall, the current study provides a framework for assessing cognitive function in pet dogs, which should improve understanding of the effects of aging on cognition in the dog population.
PMCID: PMC3824977  PMID: 23529504
Aging; Cognitive impairment; Pet dog; Navigation task; Spatial cognition
18.  Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease Begins as Episodes of Brain Ischemia and Ischemically Dysregulated Alzheimer’s Disease Genes 
Molecular Neurobiology  2013;48(3):500-515.
The study of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease etiology, now more than ever, needs an infusion of new concepts. Despite ongoing interest in Alzheimer’s disease, the basis of this entity is not yet clear. At present, the best-established and accepted “culprit” in Alzheimer’s disease pathology by most scientists is the amyloid, as the main molecular factor responsible for neurodegeneration in this disease. Abnormal upregulation of amyloid production or a disturbed clearance mechanism may lead to pathological accumulation of amyloid in brain according to the “amyloid hypothesis.” We will critically review these observations and highlight inconsistencies between the predictions of the “amyloid hypothesis” and the published data. There is still controversy over the role of amyloid in the pathological process. A question arises whether amyloid is responsible for the neurodegeneration or if it accumulates because of the neurodegeneration. Recent evidence suggests that the pathophysiology and neuropathology of Alzheimer’s disease comprises more than amyloid accumulation, tau protein pathology and finally brain atrophy with dementia. Nowadays, a handful of researchers share a newly emerged view that the ischemic episodes of brain best describe the pathogenic cascade, which eventually leads to neuronal loss, especially in hippocampus, with amyloid accumulation, tau protein pathology and irreversible dementia of Alzheimer type. The most persuasive evidences come from investigations of ischemically damaged brains of patients and from experimental ischemic brain studies that mimic Alzheimer-type dementia. This review attempts to depict what we know and do not know about the triggering factor of the Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on the possibility that the initial pathological trigger involves ischemic episodes and ischemia-induced gene dysregulation. The resulting brain ischemia dysregulates additionally expression of amyloid precursor protein and amyloid-processing enzyme genes that, in addition, ultimately compromise brain functions, leading over time to the complex alterations that characterize advanced sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. The identification of the genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease induced by ischemia will enable to further define the events leading to sporadic Alzheimer’s disease-related abnormalities. Additionally, knowledge gained from the above investigations should facilitate the elaboration of the effective treatment and/or prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3825141  PMID: 23519520
Brain ischemia; Blood–brain barrier; Neuronal death; Dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Genes; Amyloid precursor protein; Presenilins; Apolipoproteins; Secretases
19.  Cognitive Decline and Dementia in the Oldest-Old 
The oldest-old are the fastest growing segment of the Western population. Over half of the oldest-old will have dementia, but the etiology is yet unknown. Age is the only risk factor consistently associated with dementia in the oldest-old. Many of the risk and protective factors for dementia in the young elderly, such as ApoE genotype, physical activity, and healthy lifestyle, are not relevant for the oldest-old. Neuropathology is abundant in the oldest-old brains, but specific pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or vascular dementia are not necessarily correlated with cognition, as in younger persons. It has been suggested that accumulation of both AD-like and vascular pathologies, loss of synaptic proteins, and neuronal loss contribute to the cognitive decline observed in the oldest-old. Several characteristics of the oldest-old may confound the diagnosis of dementia in this age group. A gradual age-related cognitive decline, particularly in executive function and mental speed, is evident even in non-demented oldest-old. Hearing and vision losses, which are also prevalent in the oldest-old and found in some cases to precede/predict cognitive decline, may mechanically interfere in neuropsychological evaluations. Difficulties in carrying out everyday activities, observed in the majority of the oldest-old, may be the result of motor or physical dysfunction and of neurodegenerative processes. The oldest-old appear to be a select population, who escapes major illnesses or delays their onset and duration toward the end of life. Dementia in the oldest-old may be manifested when a substantial amount of pathology is accumulated, or with a composition of a variety of pathologies. Investigating the clinical and pathological features of dementia in the oldest-old is of great importance in order to develop therapeutic strategies and to provide the most elderly of our population with good quality of life.
PMCID: PMC3678827  PMID: 23908850
Dementia; epidemiology; neurobiology; oldest-old; risk factors
20.  Neurogenesis and Alzheimer's disease: At the crossroads 
Experimental neurology  2009;223(2):267-281.
While a massive and progressive neuronal loss in specific areas such as the hippocampus and cortex unequivocally underlies cognitive deterioration and memory loss in Alzheimer's disease, noteworthy alterations take place in the neurogenic microenvironments, namely, the subgranule layer of the dentate gyrus and the subventricular zone. Compromised neurogenesis presumably takes place earlier than onset of hallmark lesions or neuronal loss, and may play a role in the initiation and progression of neuropathology in Alzheimer's disease. Neurogenesis in the adult brain is thought to play a role in numerous forms and aspects of learning and memory and contribute to the plasticity of the hippocampus and olfactory system. Misregulated or impaired neurogenesis on the other hand, may compromise plasticity and neuronal function in these areas and exacerbate neuronal vulnerability. Interestingly, increasing evidence suggests that molecular players in Alzheimer's disease, including PS1, APP and its metabolites, play a role in adult neurogenesis. In addition, recent studies suggest that alterations in tau phosphorylation are pronounced in neurogenic areas, and may interfere with the potential central role of tau proteins in neuronal maturation and differentiation. On the other hand, numerous neurogenic players, such as Notch-1, ErbB4 and L1 are substrates of α- β- and γ- secretase that play a major role in Alzheimer's disease. This review will discuss current knowledge concerning alterations of neurogenesis in Alzheimer's disease with specific emphasis on the cross-talk between signaling molecules involved in both processes, and the ways by which familial Alzheimer's disease-linked dysfunction of these signaling molecules affect neurogenesis in the adult brain.
PMCID: PMC2864344  PMID: 19699201
Neurogenesis; Alzheimer's disease; tau; amyloid precursor protein; presenilin; stem cells; brain plasticity; LDL receptors
21.  Staging and natural history of cerebrovascular pathology in dementia 
Neurology  2012;78(14):1043-1050.
Most pathologic studies indicate that significant vascular changes are found in the majority of elderly persons, either alone or in association with neurodegenerative processes such as Alzheimer disease (AD) or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Cumulative burden of cerebrovascular lesions can explain cognitive decline described as vascular cognitive impairment, but because there is a lack of consensus in the best way to quantify vascular pathology, the relationship between cognitive decline and cerebrovascular disease remains uncertain. We developed a rating scheme for cerebrovascular lesions using postmortem brains from patients with dementia from 2 European tertiary care memory clinics.
A total of 135 brains with a neuropathologic diagnosis of vascular dementia (VaD) (n = 26), AD + VaD (n = 39), DLB + VaD (n = 21), AD + DLB + VaD (n = 9), AD (n = 19), and DLB (n = 21) were investigated in this study. Cerebrovascular lesions were rated on large sections from the hippocampus, the temporal lobe, the frontal lobe, and basal ganglia.
In patients with dementia, vessel wall modifications such as arteriolosclerosis or amyloid angiopathy are the most common and presumably the earliest changes. Modifications in perivascular spaces and myelin loss are the next most common. Lacunar or regional infarcts may occur as a consequence of an independent process or in the final phase of small vessel diseases.
A staging system based on this conceptual model of cerebrovascular pathology could enable the neuropathologic quantification of the cerebrovascular burden in dementia. Further studies are needed to determine whether this system can be used in large-scale studies to understand clinical–cerebrovascular pathologic correlations.
PMCID: PMC3317531  PMID: 22377814
22.  Alzheimer’s disease is not “brain aging”: neuropathological, genetic, and epidemiological human studies 
Acta neuropathologica  2011;121(5):571-587.
Human studies are reviewed concerning whether “aging”-related mechanisms contribute to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis. AD is defined by specific neuropathology: neuritic amyloid plaques and neocortical neurofibrillary tangles. AD pathology is driven by genetic factors related not to aging per se, but instead to the amyloid precursor protein (APP). In contrast to genes involved in APP-related mechanisms, there is no firm connection between genes implicated in human “accelerated aging” diseases (progerias) and AD. The epidemiology of AD in advanced age is highly relevant but deceptively challenging to address given the low autopsy rates in most countries. In extreme old age, brain diseases other than AD approximate AD prevalence while the impact of AD pathology appears to peak by age 95 and decline thereafter. Many distinct brain diseases other than AD afflict older human brains and contribute to cognitive impairment. Additional prevalent pathologies include cerebrovascular disease and hippocampal sclerosis, both high-morbidity brain diseases that appear to peak in incidence later than AD chronologically. Because of these common brain diseases of extreme old age, the epidemiology differs between clinical “dementia” and the subset of dementia cases with AD pathology. Additional aging-associated mechanisms for cognitive decline such as diabetes and synapse loss have been linked to AD and these hypotheses are discussed. Criteria are proposed to define an “aging-linked” disease, and AD fails all of these criteria. In conclusion, it may be most fruitful to focus attention on specific pathways involved in AD rather than attributing it to an inevitable consequence of aging.
PMCID: PMC3179861  PMID: 21516511
23.  Vascular β-amyloid and early astrocyte alterations impair cerebrovascular function and cerebral metabolism in transgenic arcAβ mice 
Acta Neuropathologica  2011;122(3):293-311.
Cerebrovascular lesions related to congophilic amyloid angiopathy (CAA) often accompany deposition of β-amyloid (Aβ) in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), leading to disturbed cerebral blood flow and cognitive dysfunction, posing the question how cerebrovascular pathology contributes to the pathology of AD. To address this question, we characterised the morphology, biochemistry and functionality of brain blood vessels in transgenic arctic β-amyloid (arcAβ) mice expressing human amyloid precursor protein (APP) with both the familial AD-causing Swedish and Arctic mutations; these mice are characterised by strong CAA pathology. Mice were analysed at early, mid and late-stage pathology. Expression of the glucose transporter GLUT1 at the blood–brain barrier (BBB) was significantly decreased and paralleled by impaired in vivo blood-to-brain glucose transport and reduced cerebral lactate release during neuronal activation from mid-stage pathology onwards. Reductions in astrocytic GLUT1 and lactate transporters, as well as retraction of astrocyte endfeet and swelling consistent with neurovascular uncoupling, preceded wide-spread β-amyloid plaque pathology. We show that CAA at later disease stages is accompanied by severe morphological alterations of brain blood vessels including stenoses, BBB leakages and the loss of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs). Together, our data establish that cerebrovascular and astrocytic pathology are paralleled by impaired cerebral metabolism in arcAβ mice, and that astrocyte alterations occur already at premature stages of pathology, suggesting that astrocyte dysfunction can contribute to early behavioural and cognitive impairments seen in these mice.
PMCID: PMC3168476  PMID: 21688176
Alzheimer’s disease; Congophilic amyloid angiopathy; Cerebral glucose metabolism; Astrocytes
24.  Canine Degenerative Myelopathy: Biochemical characterization of superoxide dismutase 1 in the first naturally occurring non-human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis model1 
Experimental neurology  2013;248:1-9.
Mutations in canine superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) have recently been shown to cause canine degenerative myelopathy, a disabling neurodegenerative disorder affecting specific breeds of dogs characterized by progressive motor neuron loss and paralysis until death, or more common, euthanasia. This discovery makes canine degenerative myelopathy the first and only naturally occurring non-human model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), closely paralleling the clinical, pathological, and genetic presentation of its human counterpart, SOD1-mediated familial ALS. To further understand the biochemical role that canine SOD1 plays in this disease and how it may be similar to human SOD1, we characterized the only two SOD1 mutations described in affected dogs to date, E40K and T18S. We show that a detergent-insoluble species of mutant SOD1 is present in spinal cords of affected dogs that increases with disease progression. Our in vitro results indicate that both canine SOD1 mutants form enzymatically active dimers, arguing against a loss of function in affected homozygous animals. Further studies show that these mutants, like most human SOD1 mutants, have an increased propensity to form aggregates in cell culture, with 10-20% of cells possessing visible aggregates. Creation of the E40K mutation in human SOD1 recapitulates the normal enzymatic activity but not the aggregation propensity seen with the canine mutant. Our findings lend strong biochemical support to the toxic role of SOD1 in canine degenerative myelopathy and establish close parallels for the role mutant SOD1 plays in both canine and human disorders.
PMCID: PMC3773294  PMID: 23707216
25.  Why Pleiotropic Interventions are Needed for Alzheimer's Disease 
Molecular Neurobiology  2010;41(2-3):392-409.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) involves a complex pathological cascade thought to be initially triggered by the accumulation of β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide aggregates or aberrant amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing. Much is known of the factors initiating the disease process decades prior to the onset of cognitive deficits, but an unclear understanding of events immediately preceding and precipitating cognitive decline is a major factor limiting the rapid development of adequate prevention and treatment strategies. Multiple pathways are known to contribute to cognitive deficits by disruption of neuronal signal transduction pathways involved in memory. These pathways are altered by aberrant signaling, inflammation, oxidative damage, tau pathology, neuron loss, and synapse loss. We need to develop stage-specific interventions that not only block causal events in pathogenesis (aberrant tau phosphorylation, Aβ production and accumulation, and oxidative damage), but also address damage from these pathways that will not be reversed by targeting prodromal pathways. This approach would not only focus on blocking early events in pathogenesis, but also adequately correct for loss of synapses, substrates for neuroprotective pathways (e.g., docosahexaenoic acid), defects in energy metabolism, and adverse consequences of inappropriate compensatory responses (aberrant sprouting). Monotherapy targeting early single steps in this complicated cascade may explain disappointments in trials with agents inhibiting production, clearance, or aggregation of the initiating Aβ peptide or its aggregates. Both plaque and tangle pathogenesis have already reached AD levels in the more vulnerable brain regions during the “prodromal” period prior to conversion to “mild cognitive impairment (MCI).” Furthermore, many of the pathological events are no longer proceeding in series, but are going on in parallel. By the MCI stage, we stand a greater chance of success by considering pleiotropic drugs or cocktails that can independently limit the parallel steps of the AD cascade at all stages, but that do not completely inhibit the constitutive normal functions of these pathways. Based on this hypothesis, efforts in our laboratories have focused on the pleiotropic activities of omega-3 fatty acids and the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-amyloid activity of curcumin in multiple models that cover many steps of the AD pathogenic cascade (Cole and Frautschy, Alzheimers Dement 2:284–286, 2006).
PMCID: PMC2876259  PMID: 20437209
Antioxidants; Curcumin; Inflammation; Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; Tau; Tau kinases; β-Amyloid

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