We have previously reported that a modified Stone T-maze (STM), using escape from water as motivation, was effective in evaluating learning and memory ability in young C57/BL6 mice. Here we report on the effectiveness and sensitivity of the STM in the assessment of age-related learning and memory deficits in mice using either escape from foot shock or water as the motivational manipulations. C57BL/6Nia mice 7-, 12-, 20- and 24-mo old received 15 massed trials in the escape from foot shock motivated STM while C57BL/6Nia mice 5-, 12-, and 25-mo old were tested in the escape from water STM. Analysis of errors, the main performance variable, revealed similar results in both versions of the task with younger mice making fewer errors. Notably mice of all ages in the water-motivated version moved quickly through the maze, while all ages of mice in the shock-motivated version tended to wait for shock to be initiated to move forward. Overall, both versions of the STM appear to be sensitive to age-related changes in learning and memory and provide an alternative to other testing paradigms such as the Morris water waze which are susceptible to performance confounds which can lead to uninterpretable results.
Aging; mice; learning; memory; maze
Glucocorticoids (GC)--corticosterone (CORT) in rodents and cortisol in primates--are stress-induced hormones secreted by adrenal glands that interact with the hypothalamic pituitary axis. High levels of cortisol in humans are observed in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD), as well as in diabetes, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and major depression. Experimental models of diabetes in rats and mice have demonstrated that reduction of CORT reduces learning and memory deficits and attenuates loss of neuronal viability and plasticity. In contrast to the negative associations of elevated GC levels, CORT is moderately elevated in dietary restriction (DR) paradigms which are associated with many healthy anti-aging effects including neuroprotection. We demonstrate here in rats that ablating CORT by adrenalectomy (ADX) with replenishment to relatively low levels (30% below that of controls) prior to the onset of a DR regimen (ADX-DR) followed by central administration of the neurotoxin, kainic acid (KA), significantly attenuates learning deficits in a 14-unit T-maze task. The performance of the ADX-DR KA group did not differ from a control group (CON) that did not receive KA and was fed ad libitum (AL). By contrast, the sham-operated DR (SHAM-DR KA) group, SHAM-AL KA group, and ADX-AL KA group demonstrated poorer learning behavior in this task compared to the CON group. Stereological analysis revealed equivalent DR-induced neuroprotection in the SH-DR KA and ADX-DR KA groups, as measured by cell loss in the CA2/CA3 region of the hippocampus, while substantial cell loss was observed in SH-AL and ADX-AL rats. A separate set of experiments was conducted with similar dietary and surgical treatment conditions but without KA administration to examine markers of neurotrophic activity, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), transcriptions factors (pCREB), and chaperone proteins (HSP-70). Under these conditions, we noted elevations in both BDNF and pCREB in ADX DR rats compared to the other groups; whereas, HSP-70, was equivalently elevated in ADX-DR and SH-DR groups and was higher than observed in both SH-AL and ADX-AL groups. These results support findings that DR protects hippocampal neurons against KA-induced cellular insult. However, this neuroprotective effect was further enhanced in rats with a lower-than control level of CORT resulting from ADX and maintained by exogenous CORT supplementation. Our results then suggest that DR-induced physiological elevation of GC may have negative functional consequences to DR-induced beneficial effects. These negative effects, however, can be compensated by other DR-produced cellular and molecular protective mechanisms.
Some patients experience enduring cognitive impairment after cancer treatment, a condition termed “chemofog”. Animal models allow assessment of chemotherapy effects on learning and memory per se, independent of changes due to cancer itself or associated health consequences such as depression. The present study examined the long-term learning and memory effects of a chemotherapy cocktail used widely in the treatment of breast cancer, consisting of 5-fluorouracil (5FU) and cyclophosphamide (CYP). Eighty 5-month old male F344 rats received contextual and cued fear conditioning before treatment with saline, or a low or high dose drug cocktail (50 mg/kg CYP and 75 mg/kg 5FU, or 75 mg/kg CYP and 120 mg/kg 5FU, i.p., respectively) every 30 days for 2 months. After a 2-month, no-drug recovery, both long-term retention and new task acquisition in the water maze and 14-unit T-maze were assessed. Neither dose of the CYP/5FU cocktail impaired retrograde fear memory despite marked toxicity documented by enduring weight loss and 50% mortality at the higher dose. Acquisition in the water maze and Stone maze was also normal relative to controls in rats treated with CYP/5FU. The results contribute to a growing literature suggesting that learning and memory mediated by the hippocampus can be relatively resistant to chemotherapy. Future investigation may need to focus on assessments of processing speed, executive function and attention, and the possible interactive contribution of cancer itself and aging to the post-treatment development of cognitive impairment.
Chemofog; Chemobrain; spatial memory; fear conditioning; cognition
Adiponectin exerts multiple regulatory functions in the body and in the hypothalamus primarily through activation of its two receptors, adiponectin receptor1 and adiponectin receptor 2. Recent studies have shown that adiponectin receptors are widely expressed in other areas of the brain including the hippocampus. However, the functions of adiponectin in brain regions other than the hypothalamus are not clear. Here, we report that adiponectin can protect cultured hippocampal neurons against kainic acid-induced (KA) cytotoxicity. Adiponectin reduced the level of reactive oxygen species, attenuated apoptotic cell death, and also suppressed activation of caspase-3 induced by KA. Pretreatment of hippocampal primary neurons with an AMPK inhibitor, compound C, abolished adiponectin-induced neuronal protection. The AMPK activator, 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-beta-D-ribofuranoside, attenuated KA-induced caspase-3 activity. These findings suggest that the AMPK pathway is critically involved in adiponectin-induced neuroprotection and may mediate the antioxidative and anti-apoptotic properties of adiponectin.
Adiponectin; Neuroprotection; Hippocampus; Kainic acid; AMPK
Calorie restriction (CR), the purposeful reduction of energy intake with maintenance of adequate micronutrient intake, is well known to extend the lifespan of laboratory animals. Compounds like 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2DG) that can recapitulate the metabolic effects of CR are of great interest for their potential to extend lifespan. 2DG treatment has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits for treating cancer and seizures. 2DG has also recapitulated some hallmarks of the CR phenotype including reduced body temperature and circulating insulin in short-term rodent trials, but one chronic feeding study in rats found toxic effects. The present studies were performed to further explore the long-term effects of 2DG in vivo. First we demonstrate that 2DG increases mortality of male Fischer-344 rats. Increased incidence of pheochromocytoma in the adrenal medulla was also noted in the 2DG treated rats. We reconfirm the cardiotoxicity of 2DG in a 6-week follow-up study evaluating male Brown Norway rats and a natural form of 2DG in addition to again examining effects in Fischer-344 rats and the original synthetic 2DG. High levels of both 2DG sources reduced weight gain secondary to reduced food intake in both strains. Histopathological analysis of the hearts revealed increasing vacuolarization of cardiac myocytes with dose, and tissue staining revealed the vacuoles were free of both glycogen and lipid. We did, however, observe higher expression of both cathepsin D and LC3 in the hearts of 2DG-treated rats which indicates an increase in autophagic flux. Although a remarkable CR-like phenotype can be reproduced with 2DG treatment, the ultimate toxicity of 2DG seriously challenges 2DG as a potential CR mimetic in mammals and also raises concerns about other therapeutic applications of the compound.
Deoxyglucose; Calorie restriction; Lifespan; Mortality; Cardiac vacuolarization
Apyrimidinic/apurinic endonuclease (APE) is a key protein involved in the base excision DNA repair (BER) pathway of oxidative DNA lesions. Using a novel oligonucleotide substrate, we demonstrate that APE activity in the frontal/parietal cortex (F/PCTX), cerebellum, brainstem, midbrain and hypothalamus declined with age in rats on an ad libitum (AL) diet. In contrast, APE activity for these brain regions was ~1.5-3 times higher in young, caloric restricted (CR) rats. Despite continuous CR treatment in all animals since six weeks of age, APE activity in the CR group started to decline by middle-age and continued into old age. However, CR maintained APE activity at a level that was significantly higher than that in AL rats across age and in the brain regions examined. Because Western analysis of APE, DNA polymerase β and DNA ligase III levels in the F/PCTX of both CR and AL rats remained unchanged with age, this suggests that the increased APE activity in CR rats is the result of differential post-translational modification of APE.
Exonuclease; apyrimidinic/apurinic endonuclease (APE); DNA polymerase β; DNA ligase III; frontal/parietal cortex; 8-oxodeoxyguanosine
Caloric restriction (CR) mitigates neurological damage arising from aging and a variety of other sources, including neuropathology in young adult mice that express single and double transgenic (tg) mutations associated with Alzheimer disease (AD). To evaluate the potential of CR to protect against relatively heavy AD-type pathology, middle-aged (13-14 month-old) mice that co-express two mutations related to familial AD, amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilin 1 (PS1), were fed balanced diets with 40% fewer calories than ad libitum-fed controls. Following 18 weeks of treatment, mice were killed and brains processed for quantification of total volume of amyloid-beta (Aβ) in the hippocampal formation and the overlying neocortex. Computerized stereology confirmed that CR reduced the total Aβ volume by about one-third compared to that in age-matched controls. Thus, CR appears to attenuate the accumulation of AD-type neuropathology in two cortical brain regions of middle-aged dtg APP/ PS1 mice. These findings support the view that CR could be a potentially effective, non-pharmacology strategy for reducing relatively heavy Aβ deposition in older adult dtg APP/ PS1 mice, and possibly afford similar protection against the onset and progression of AD in older adult humans.
Caloric restriction; unbiased stereology; Stereologer; APP; PS1
The 14-unit T-maze had proven to be a valuable tool for investigating age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). While another task widely used to evaluate AAMI, the water maze, is primarily used to evaluate allocentric hippocampal-dependent spatial memory, the 14-unit T-maze can assess egocentric procedural memory. Although several brain structures, e.g. hippocampus, parietal cortex, have been implicated in acquisition and retention performance in the 14-unit T-maze, there has been no evaluation of the involvement of the striatum, a brain region implicated in procedural learning and memory. The current study revealed that excitotoxic lesions of the medial or lateral striatum significantly impaired acquisition, as measured by errors and latency, on this task without disruption of motor function. These results indicate that the 14-unit T-maze most likely is requires a large egocentric procedural learning component, and previously observed AAMI may involve age-related dysfunction of the striatum.
striatum; maze; learning; excitoxic lesion; rats
Despite remarkable progress in treatment of chronic heart failure (CHF) over the last two decades, mortality, personal suffering and cost remain staggering, and effective interventions are still a challenge. Previously we reported that a blueberry-enriched diet (BD) attenuated necroapoptosis and inflammation in periinfarct area in a rat model of myocardial infarction (MI).
To test the hypothesis that BD will attenuate the course of CHF, including mortality and cardiac remodeling during the first year after induction of MI in rats.
Method and Results
Two weeks after coronary artery ligation, rats were divided into two groups of similar average MI size, measured by echocardiography, and then12-mo dietary regimens were initiated as follows: ad libitum regular diet (control, CD, n = 27) and isocaloric food with 2% blueberry supplement (BD, n = 27) also available ad libitum. These dietary groups were compared to each other and to sham group (SH). Mortality over the 12 mo was reduced by 22% in BD compared with CD (p<0.01). In the course of developing CHF, BD had no effect on the body weight, heart rate or blood pressure. Bi-monthly Echo revealed significant attenuation of the LV chamber remodeling, LV posterior wall thinning, and MI expansion in BD compared with CD. In fact, BD arrested the MI expansion.
This is the first experimental evidence that a blueberry-enriched diet has positive effects on the course of CHF and thus warrants consideration for clinical evaluation.
to assess the cardioprotective properties of a blueberry enriched diet (BD).
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a major role in ischemia-related myocardial injury. The attempts to use synthetic antioxidants to block the detrimental effects of ROS have produced mixed or negative results precipitating the interest in natural products. Blueberries are readily available product with the highest antioxidant capacity among fruits and vegetables.
Methods and Results
Following 3-mo of BD or a regular control diet (CD), the threshold for mitochondrial permeability transition (tMPT) was measured in isolated cardiomyocytes obtained from young male Fischer-344 rats. Compared to CD, BD resulted in a 24% increase (p<0.001) of ROS indexed tMPT. The remaining animals were subjected to a permanent ligation of the left descending coronary artery. 24 hrs later resulting myocardial infarction (MI) in rats on BD was 22% less than in CD rats (p<0.01). Significantly less TUNEL(+) cardiomyocytes (2% vs 9%) and 40% less inflammation cells were observed in the myocardial area at risk of BD compared to CD rats (p<0.01). In the subgroup of rats, after coronary ligation the original diet was either continued or switched to the opposite one, and cardiac remodeling and MI expansion were followed by serial echocardiography for 10 weeks. Measurements suggested that continuation of BD or its withdrawal after MI attenuated or accelerated rates of post MI cardiac remodeling and MI expansion.
A blueberry-enriched diet protected the myocardium from induced ischemic damage and demonstrated the potential to attenuate the development of post MI chronic heart failure.
Diabetes and normal aging are both characterized by increases in levels of glucocorticoids. Because long-term exposure to elevated glucocorticoids can be detrimental to hippocampal function, we evaluated the performance of young diabetic rats in the 14-unit T-maze, a task that is sensitive to hippocampal deficits. To assess the contribution of diabetes-induced elevations in corticosterone levels, we examined maze learning in diabetic rats that had levels of corticosterone ‘clamped’ through adrenalectomy and low dose corticosterone replacement. For comparison, we also tested a separate group of young and aged rats in the maze. Adrenally intact diabetic rats learned poorly in the 14-unit T-maze. Preventing the increases in corticosterone levels that accompanies the onset of experimental diabetes also prevented deficits in complex maze learning. The pattern of errors made by adrenally intact diabetic rats was similar to the pattern of errors made by aged rats, suggesting that the cognitive profiles of diabetic and aged rats share common features.
stress; streptozocin; hippocampus; Stone maze; aging