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1.  Activation of PPARδ prevents endothelial dysfunction induced by overexpression of amyloid-β precursor protein 
Cardiovascular Research  2012;96(3):504-512.
Existing evidence suggests that amyloid-β precursor protein (APP) causes endothelial dysfunction and contributes to pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In the present study, experiments were designed to: (1) determine the mechanisms underlying endothelial dysfunction and (2) define the effects of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta (PPARδ) ligand on endothelial function in transgenic Tg2576 mice overexpressing mutated human APP.
Methods and results
Confocal microscopy and western blot analyses of wild-type mice aortas provided evidence that APP protein is mainly present in endothelial cells. Overexpression of APP significantly impaired endothelium-dependent relaxations to acetylcholine and phosphorylation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase at Ser1177 in aortas. HPLC analysis revealed that tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) levels were reduced in Tg2576 mice aortas. This was caused by increased oxidation of BH4 and reduced expression and activity of GTP-cyclohydrolase I. Furthermore, gp91phox protein expression and superoxide anion production were increased in aortas of Tg2576 mice. This augmented superoxide formation was completely prevented by the NADPH oxidase inhibitor VAS2870. Expression of copper-/zinc-superoxide dismutase (Cu/ZnSOD) and extracellular SOD was downregulated. Treatment with PPARδ ligand GW501516 (2 mg/kg/day) for 14 days significantly increased BH4 bioavailability and improved endothelium-dependent relaxations in Tg2576 mice aortas. GW501516 also normalized protein expression of gp91phox and SODs, thereby reducing production of superoxide anion in the aortas.
Our results suggest that in APP transgenic mice loss of nitric oxide and increased oxidative stress are the major causes of endothelial dysfunction. The vascular protective effects of GW501516 in Tg2576 mice appear to be critically dependent on prevention of superoxide anion production.
PMCID: PMC3500044  PMID: 22886847
Amyloid-β precursor protein; Endothelial function; Superoxide anion; Tetrahydrobiopterin; Atherosclerosis
2.  Tau loss attenuates neuronal network hyperexcitability in mouse and Drosophila genetic models of epilepsy 
Neuronal network hyperexcitability underlies the pathogenesis of seizures and is a component of some degenerative neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Recently, the microtubule binding protein tau has been implicated in the regulation of network synchronization. Genetic removal of Mapt, the gene encoding tau, in AD models overexpressing amyloid-beta (Aβ) decreases hyperexcitability and normalizes the excitation/inhibition imbalance. Whether this effect of tau removal is specific to Aβ mouse models remains to be determined. Here we examined tau as an excitability modifier in the non-AD nervous system using genetic deletion of tau in mouse and Drosophila models of hyperexcitability. Kcna1−/− mice lack Kv1.1 delayed rectifier currents and exhibit severe spontaneous seizures, early lethality, and megencephaly. Young Kcna1−/− mice retained wild-type levels of Aβ, tau, and tau phospho-Thr231. Decreasing tau in Kcna1−/− mice reduced hyperexcitability and alleviated seizure-related comorbidities. Tau reduction decreased Kcna1−/− video-EEG recorded seizure frequency and duration as well as normalized Kcna1−/− hippocampal network hyperexcitability in vitro. Additionally, tau reduction increased Kcna1−/− survival and prevented megencephaly and hippocampal hypertrophy, as determined by MRI. Bang-sensitive Drosophila mutants display paralysis and seizures in response to mechanical stimulation, providing a complementary excitability assay for epistatic interactions. We found that tau reduction significantly decreased seizure sensitivity in two independent bang-sensitive mutant models, kcc and eas. Our results indicate that tau plays a general role in regulating intrinsic neuronal network hyperexcitability independently of Aβ overexpression and suggest that reducing tau function could be a viable target for therapeutic intervention in seizure disorders and antiepileptogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3711605  PMID: 23345237
3.  Genome-wide association analysis of age-at-onset in Alzheimer’s disease 
Molecular psychiatry  2011;17(12):1340-1346.
The risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is strongly determined by genetic factors and recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several genes for the disease risk. In addition to the disease risk, age-at-onset (AAO) of AD has also strong genetic component with an estimated heritability of 42%. Identification of AAO genes may help to understand the biological mechanisms that regulate the onset of the disease. Here we report the first GWAS focused on identifying genes for the AAO of AD. We performed a genome-wide meta analysis on 3 samples comprising a total of 2,222 AD cases. A total of ~2.5 million directly genotyped or imputed SNPs were analyzed in relation to AAO of AD. As expected, the most significant associations were observed in the APOE region on chromosome 19 where several SNPs surpassed the conservative genome-wide significant threshold (P<5E-08). The most significant SNP outside the APOE region was located in the DCHS2 gene on chromosome 4q31.3 (rs1466662; P=4.95E-07). There were 19 additional significant SNPs in this region at P<1E-04 and the DCHS2 gene is expressed in the cerebral cortex and thus is a potential candidate for affecting AAO in AD. These findings need to be confirmed in additional well-powered samples.
PMCID: PMC3262952  PMID: 22005931
Genome-wide association study; age-at-onset; Alzheimer’s disease; single-nucleotide polymorphisms; meta analysis
4.  C9ORF72 repeat expansions and other FTD gene mutations in a clinical AD patient series from Mayo Clinic 
Alzheimer disease (AD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are two frequent forms of primary neurodegenerative dementias with overlapping clinical symptoms. Pathogenic mutations of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilins 1 and 2 (PSEN1, PSEN2) genes have been linked to familial early-onset forms of AD; however, more recently mutations in the common FTD genes encoding the microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT), progranulin (GRN) and C9ORF72, have also been reported in clinically diagnosed AD patients. To access the contribution of mutations in a well-characterized series of patients, we systematically performed genetic analyses of these EOAD and FTD genes in a novel cohort of 227 unrelated probands clinically diagnosed as probable AD which were ascertained at Mayo Clinic Florida between 1997 and 2011. All patients showed first symptoms of dementia before 70 years. We identified 9 different pathogenic mutations in the EOAD genes in a total of 11 patients explaining 4.8% of the patient population. Two mutations were novel: PSEN1 p.Pro218Leu and PSEN2 p.Phe183Ser. Importantly, mutations were also identified in all FTD genes: one patient carried a MAPT p.R406W mutation, one patient carried the p.Arg198Glyfs19X loss-of-function mutation in GRN and two patients were found to carry expanded GGGGCC repeats in the non-coding region of C9ORF72. Together the FTD genes explained the disease in 1.8% of our probable AD population. The identification of mutations in all major FTD genes in this novel cohort of clinically diagnosed AD patients underlines the challenges associated with the differential diagnosis of AD and FTD resulting from overlapping symptomatology and has important implications for molecular diagnostic testing and genetic counseling of clinically diagnosed AD patients. Our findings suggest that in clinically diagnosed AD patients, genetic analyses should include not only the well-established EOAD genes APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 but also genes that are usually associated with FTD. Finally, the overall low frequency of mutation carriers observed in our study (6.6%) suggests the involvement of other as yet unknown genetic factors associated with AD.
PMCID: PMC3560455  PMID: 23383383
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; amyloid precursor protein; presenilin 1; presenilin 2; progranulin; microtubule associated protein tau; C9ORF72; mutation; diagnosis.
5.  Association of common KIBRA variants with episodic memory and AD risk 
Neurobiology of aging  2010;32(3):557.e1-557.e9.
KIBRA SNP rs17070145 was identified in a GWAS of memory performance, with some but not all follow-up studies confirming association of its T allele with enhanced memory. This allele was associated with reduced Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk in one study, which also found overexpression of KIBRA in memory-related brain regions of ADs. We genotyped rs17070145 and 14 additional SNPs in 2571 LOADs vs. 2842 controls, including African-Americans. We found significantly reduced risk for rs17070145 T allele in the older African-American subjects (p=0.007) and a suggestive effect in the older Caucasian series. Meta-analysis of this allele in >8000 subjects from our and published series showed a suggestive protective effect (p=0.07). Analysis of episodic memory in control subjects did not identify associations with rs17070145, though other SNPs showed significant associations in one series. KIBRA showed evidence of overexpression in the AD temporal cortex (p=0.06) but not cerebellum. These results suggest a modest role for KIBRA as a cognition and AD risk gene, and also highlight the multifactorial complexity of its genetic associations.
PMCID: PMC3065956  PMID: 21185624
Alzheimer's disease; Association studies in genetics; Case control studies
6.  Evaluation of the global association between cholesterol-associated polymorphisms and Alzheimer's disease suggests a role for rs3846662 and HMGCR splicing in disease risk 
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP)s that are essentially unequivocally associated with peripheral cholesterol. Since the alleles of the APOE gene, which modulate peripheral cholesterol metabolism, and midlife plasma cholesterol are both associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk, we have evaluated the hypothesis that SNPs associated with plasma cholesterol are also associated with AD.
Seventeen non-APOE SNPs reproducibly associated with cholesterol per GWAS were tested for association with AD in ~2,000 AD and ~4,000 non-AD subjects. As a group, these SNPs are associated with AD. Two SNPs in particular, rs3846662 and rs1532085, are associated with AD risk and age-of-onset. Additionally, rs3846662 was associated with HMGCR exon 13 splicing in human liver but not brain, possibly obscured by CNS cell-type heterogeneity. However, rs3846662 was associated with HMGCR exon 13 splicing in liver- and brain-derived cell lines.
Cholesterol-associated SNPs outside of APOE confer a global risk for AD. Rs3846662 and rs1532085 are associated with both AD risk and age-of-onset. Rs3846662 is associated with HMGCR exon 13 inclusion. Since rs3846662 affects AD risk and age-of-onset as well as statin responsiveness, this SNP may confound clinical trials evaluating the protective effects of statins on AD.
PMCID: PMC3180274  PMID: 21867541
Alzheimer; genetics; cholesterol; GWAS; SNP; HMGCR; statin
7.  Replication of CLU, CR1 and PICALM associations with Alzheimer’s disease 
Archives of neurology  2010;67(8):961-964.
Harold et al. and Lambert et al. recently published two large genome-wide association studies of late onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) in which CLU, CR1, and PICALM were identified as novel LOAD genes.
To test for replication of the association between variants in the CLU, CR1 and PICALM genes with Alzheimer’s disease.
Case-control association study
Community-based ascertainment of patients seen at the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, FL and Rochester, MN, and autopsy-confirmed cases and controls whose pathology was evaluated at the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville. Additional samples were obtained from the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease (NCRAD).
LOAD case-control series of European descent consisting of 1,829 LOAD cases and 2,576 controls
Main Outcome Measure
Clinical or pathology-confirmed diagnosis of LOAD
In our follow-up study of 1,829 LOAD cases and 2,576 controls, the most significant SNPs in CLU (rs11136000), CR1 (rs3818361), and PICALM (rs3851179) were tested for allelic association and gave ORs of 0.82, 1.15, and 0.80 respectively that were comparable in direction and magnitude to those originally reported with p values of 8.6×10−5, 0.014, and 1.3×10−5 that were significant even after Bonferroni correction for 3 SNPs tested.
These results showing near perfect replication provide the first additional evidence that CLU, CR1, and PICALM are LOAD genes.
PMCID: PMC2919638  PMID: 20554627
8.  Association of Plasma Beta-Amyloid Level and Cognitive Reserve with Subsequent Cognitive Decline 
Lower plasma β-amyloid (Aβ) 42 and 42/40 have been associated with incident dementia, but results are conflicting and few have investigated cognitive decline among non-demented elders.
To determine if plasma β-amyloid is associated with cognitive decline and if this association is modified by measures of cognitive reserve.
Design, Setting, Participants
We studied 997 black and white community-dwelling older adults from Memphis, TN and Pittsburgh, PA enrolled in the Health ABC Study, a prospective observational study begun in 1997–98 with 10-year follow-up in 2006–07.
Main Outcome Measures
Association of near baseline plasma β-amyloid (42 and 42/40 measured in 2010) and repeatedly measured Modified Mini-Mental State Exam (3MS).
Participant mean age was 74.0 (3.0) years, 55.2% (N=550) were female, 54.0% (N=538) were black. Low β-amyloid 42/40 level was associated with greater 9-year 3MS cognitive decline (Low tertile [mean(95% CI)] −6.59 −(5.21–7.67) points, mid −6.16 −(4.92–7.32) and high −3.60 −(2.27–4.73), p<0.001). Results were similar after multivariate adjustment for age, race, education, diabetes, smoking and APOE e4 and after excluding the 72 participants with incident dementia. Measures of cognitive reserve modified this association whereby among those with high reserve (education ≥ high school (HS), literacy >6th grade, or no APOE e4), β-amyloid 42/40 was less associated with multivariate adjusted 9-year decline. For example, among participants with education
Lower plasma β-amyloid 42/40 is associated with greater cognitive decline among non-demented elders over 9 years, and this association is stronger among those with low measures of cognitive reserve.
PMCID: PMC3108075  PMID: 21245181
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21429.
The insulin degrading enzyme (IDE) variant, v311 (rs6583817), is associated with increased post-mortem cerebellar IDE mRNA, decreased plasma β-amyloid (Aβ), decreased risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and increased reporter gene expression, suggesting that it is a functional variant driving increased IDE expression. To identify other functional IDE variants, we have tested v685, rs11187061 (associated with decreased cerebellar IDE mRNA) and variants on H6, the haplotype tagged by v311 (v10; rs4646958, v315; rs7895832, v687; rs17107734 and v154; rs4646957), for altered in vitro reporter gene expression. The reporter gene expression levels associated with the second most common haplotype (H2) successfully replicated the post-mortem findings in hepatocytoma (0.89 fold-change, p = 0.04) but not neuroblastoma cells. Successful in vitro replication was achieved for H6 in neuroblastoma cells when the sequence was cloned 5′ to the promoter (1.18 fold-change, p = 0.006) and 3′ to the reporter gene (1.29 fold change, p = 0.003), an effect contributed to by four variants (v10, v315, v154 and v311). Since IDE mediates Aβ degradation, variants that regulate IDE expression could represent good therapeutic targets for AD.
PMCID: PMC3120874  PMID: 21731745
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) are inversely associated. To test the hypothesis that genetic elements associated with increased RA risk are associated with decreased AD risk, we evaluated RA genetic risk factors recently identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for their association with AD in a two-stage, case-control analysis.
In our Stage 1 analysis of ~800 AD and ~1,200 non-AD individuals, three of seventeen RA-associated SNPs were nominally associated with AD (p < 0.05) with one SNP, rs2837960, retaining significance after correction for multiple testing (p = 0.03). The rs2837960_G (minor) allele, which is associated with increased RA risk, was associated with increased AD risk. Analysis of these three SNPs in a Stage 2 population, consisting of ~1,100 AD and ~2,600 non-AD individuals, did not confirm their association with AD. Analysis of Stage 1 and 2 combined suggested that rs2837960 shows a trend for association with AD. When the Stage 2 population was age-matched for the Stage 1 population, rs2837960 exhibited a non-significant trend with AD. Combined analysis of Stage 1 and the age-matched Stage 2 subset showed a significant association of rs2837960 with AD (p = 0.002, OR 1.24) that retained significance following correction for age, sex and APOE (p = 0.02, OR = 1.20). Rs2837960 is near BACE2, which encodes an aspartic protease capable of processing the AD-associated amyloid precursor protein. Testing for an association between rs2837960 and the expression of BACE2 isoforms in human brain, we observed a trend between rs2837960 and the total expression of BACE2 and the expression of a BACE2 transcript lacking exon 7 (p = 0.07 and 0.10, respectively).
RA-associated SNPs are generally not associated with AD. Moreover, rs2837960_G is associated with increased risk of both RA and, in individuals less than 80 years of age, with AD. Overall, these results contest the hypothesis that genetic variants associated with RA confer protection against AD. Further investigation of rs2837960 is necessary to elucidate the mechanism by which rs2837960 contributes to both AD and RA risk, likely via modulation of BACE2 expression.
PMCID: PMC3120711  PMID: 21595938
Human Genetics  2010;129(3):273-282.
The 12 genome-wide association studies (GWAS) published to-date for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) have identified over 40 candidate LOAD risk modifiers, in addition to apolipoprotein (APOE) ε4. A few of these novel LOAD candidate genes, namely BIN1, CLU, CR1, EXOC3L2 and PICALM, have shown consistent replication, and are thus credible LOAD susceptibility genes. To evaluate other promising LOAD candidate genes, we have added data from our large, case–control series (n = 5,043) to meta-analyses of all published follow-up case–control association studies for six LOAD candidate genes that have shown significant association across multiple studies (TNK1, GAB2, LOC651924, GWA_14q32.13, PGBD1 and GALP) and for an additional nine previously suggested candidate genes. Meta-analyses remained significant at three loci after addition of our data: GAB2 (OR = 0.78, p = 0.007), LOC651924 (OR = 0.91, p = 0.01) and TNK1 (OR = 0.92, p = 0.02). Breslow–Day tests revealed significant heterogeneity between studies for GAB2 (p < 0.0001) and GWA_14q32.13 (p = 0.006). We have also provided suggestive evidence that PGBD1 (p = 0.04) and EBF3 (p = 0.03) are associated with age-at-onset of LOAD. Finally, we tested for interactions between these 15 genes, APOE ε4 and the five novel LOAD genes BIN1, CLU, CR1, EXOC3L2 and PICALM but none were significant after correction for multiple testing. Overall, this large, independent follow-up study for 15 of the top LOAD candidate genes provides support for GAB2 and LOC651924 (6q24.1) as risk modifiers of LOAD and novel associations between PGBD1 and EBF3 with age-at-onset.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-010-0924-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3036835  PMID: 21132329
Nature genetics  2009;41(2):192-198.
By analyzing late onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) in a genome wide association study (313,504 SNPs, 3 series, 844 cases/1,255 controls) and evaluating the 25 SNPs with most significant allelic association in 4 additional series (1,547 cases/1,209 controls), we identified a SNP (rs5984894) on Xq21.3 in PCDH11X that is strongly associated with LOAD in American Caucasians. Analysis of rs5984894 by multivariable logistic regression adjusted for sex gave global P values of 5.7×10-5 in stage I, 4.8×10-6 in stage II, and 3.9×10-12 in the combined data. Odds ratios were 1.75 (95% CI 1.42-2.16) for female homozygotes (P=2.0×10-7) and 1.26 (95% CI 1.05-1.51) for female heterozygotes (P=0.01) compared to female non-carriers. For male hemizygotes (P=0.07) compared to male non-carriers the odds ratio was 1.18 (95% CI 0.99-1.41).
PMCID: PMC2873177  PMID: 19136949
Neurobiology of aging  2006;29(5):793-794.
Several polymorphisms in hepatic lipase (LIPC) are similar to apoE4 because they associate with cholesterol concentrations and, for rs6084, coronary artery disease (CAD). Since apoE4 is also a primary genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD), LIPC single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP)s represent excellent candidates for LOAD association studies. Because this issue has not been addressed previously, we evaluated LIPC SNP association with LOAD. In a population from the Religious Orders Study (ROS), rs6084 was nominally associated with LOAD odds (p=0.015 by χ2 test). However, this association was not confirmed in two subsequent series based at the University of Kentucky (UKY, p=0.15) or the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville (MCJ, p=0.97). Hence, rs6084 is not consistently associated with LOAD.
PMCID: PMC2362140  PMID: 17175070
Alzheimer’s disease; Genetics; Hepatic lipase; Apolipoprotein E.
Brain  2009;132(3):583-591.
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP43)-positive pathology. The clinical presentation associated with GRN mutations is heterogeneous and may include clinical probable Alzheimer's disease. All GRN mutations identified thus far cause disease through a uniform disease mechanism, i.e. the loss of functional GRN or haploinsufficiency. To determine if expression of GRN in plasma could predict GRN mutation status and could be used as a biological marker, we optimized a GRN ELISA and studied plasma samples of a consecutive clinical FTLD series of 219 patients, 70 control individuals, 72 early-onset probable Alzheimer's disease patients and nine symptomatic and 18 asymptomatic relatives of GRN mutation families. All FTLD patients with GRN loss-of-function mutations showed significantly reduced levels of GRN in plasma to about one third of the levels observed in non-GRN carriers and control individuals (P < 0.001). No overlap in distributions of GRN levels was observed between the eight GRN loss-of-function mutation carriers (range: 53–94 ng/ml) and 191 non-GRN mutation carriers (range: 115–386 ng/ml). Similar low levels of GRN were identified in asymptomatic GRN mutation carriers. Importantly, ELISA analyses also identified one probable Alzheimer's disease patient (1.4%) carrying a loss-of-function mutation in GRN. Biochemical analyses further showed that the GRN ELISA only detects full-length GRN, no intermediate granulin fragments. This study demonstrates that using a GRN ELISA in plasma, pathogenic GRN mutations can be accurately detected in symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. The ∼75% reduction in full-length GRN, suggests an unbalanced GRN metabolism in loss-of-function mutation carriers whereby more GRN is processed into granulins. We propose that plasma GRN levels could be used as a reliable and inexpensive tool to identify all GRN mutation carriers in early-onset dementia populations and asymptomatic at-risk individuals.
PMCID: PMC2664450  PMID: 19158106
Progranulin; ELISA; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Alzheimer's disease
Brain : a journal of neurology  2008;131(Pt 3):651-664.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) are associated with a marked reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia characterized by the accumulation of amyloid plaques containing the amyloid-β protein (Aβ). Studies of the effects of NSAIDs upon the inflammatory response surrounding amyloid plaques and upon the generation of Aβ from the amyloid precursor protein (APP) have led to two proposed mechanisms by which NSAIDs may protect against Alzheimer’s disease: one, the selective lowering of Aβ42 by a subset of NSAIDs; and two, the reduction of inflammation. Although Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder of brain and synaptic function, the effects of NSAIDs on Aβ-mediated suppression of synaptic plasticity and memory function have never been reported. We therefore investigated how three different NSAIDs, chosen for their distinct effects on Aβ42 production and the inhibition of the cyclooxygenase (COX) isoenzymes, COX-1 and COX-2, affect memory function and synaptic plasticity. By focusing upon brain and synapse function, we made novel observations about the effects of NSAIDs on Aβ-mediated neural processes. Here we report that the selective inhibition of COX-2, but not COX-1, acutely prevented the suppression of hippocampal long-term plasticity (LTP) by Aβ. The non-selective NSAIDs, ibuprofen and naproxen, and a selective COX-2 inhibitor, MF-tricyclic, each restored memory function in Tg2576 mice over-expressing APP, and also blocked Aβ-mediated inhibition of LTP. There was no advantage of ibuprofen, a selective Aβ42-lowering agent (SALA), over the non-SALAs, naproxen and MF-tricyclic. The beneficial effects on memory did not depend upon lowered levels of Aβ42 or the inflammatory cytokines, tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and interleukin 1β (IL-1β). Intriguingly, improved memory function was inversely related to prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) levels. Conversely, exogenous PGE2 prevented the restorative effects of COX-2 inhibitors on LTP. The data indicate that the inhibition of COX-2 blocks Aβ-mediated suppression of LTP and memory function, and that this block occurs independently of reductions in Aβ42 or decreases in inflammation. The results lead us to propose a third possible mechanism by which NSAIDs may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, involving the blockade of a COX-2-mediated PGE2 response at synapses.
PMCID: PMC2628581  PMID: 18292081
NSAIDs; inflammation; transgenic; memory; synaptic plasticity
Analyses of the biologic effects of mutations in the BRI2 (ITM2b) and the amyloid β precursor protein (APP) genes support the hypothesis that cerebral accumulation of amyloidogenic peptides in familial British and familial Danish dementias and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with neurodegeneration. We have used somatic brain transgenic technology to express the BRI2 and BRI2-Aβ1-40 transgenes in amyloid β protein precursor (APP) mouse models. Expression of BRI2-Aβ1-40 mimics the suppressive effect previously observed using conventional transgenic methods, further validating the somatic brain transgenic methodology. Unexpectedly, we also find that expression of wild type human BRI2 reduces cerebral Aβ deposition in an AD mouse model. Additional data indicate that the 23 amino acid peptide, Bri23, released from BRI2 by normal processing is present in human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), inhibits Aβ aggregation in vitro, and mediates its anti-amyloidogenic effect in vivo. These studies demonstrate that BRI2 is a novel mediator of Aβ deposition in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2586000  PMID: 18524908
BRI2; ITM2b; Amyloid Beta protein; Alzheimer’s disease; Somatic brain transgenesis; Adeno-associated virus
PLoS Medicine  2005;2(12):e355.
The proteases (secretases) that cleave amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide from the amyloid precursor protein (APP) have been the focus of considerable investigation in the development of treatments for Alzheimer disease. The prediction has been that reducing Aβ production in the brain, even after the onset of clinical symptoms and the development of associated pathology, will facilitate the repair of damaged tissue and removal of amyloid lesions. However, no long-term studies using animal models of amyloid pathology have yet been performed to test this hypothesis.
Methods and Findings
We have generated a transgenic mouse model that genetically mimics the arrest of Aβ production expected from treatment with secretase inhibitors. These mice overexpress mutant APP from a vector that can be regulated by doxycycline. Under normal conditions, high-level expression of APP quickly induces fulminant amyloid pathology. We show that doxycycline administration inhibits transgenic APP expression by greater than 95% and reduces Aβ production to levels found in nontransgenic mice. Suppression of transgenic Aβ synthesis in this model abruptly halts the progression of amyloid pathology. However, formation and disaggregation of amyloid deposits appear to be in disequilibrium as the plaques require far longer to disperse than to assemble. Mice in which APP synthesis was suppressed for as long as 6 mo after the formation of Aβ deposits retain a considerable amyloid load, with little sign of active clearance.
This study demonstrates that amyloid lesions in transgenic mice are highly stable structures in vivo that are slow to disaggregate. Our findings suggest that arresting Aβ production in patients with Alzheimer disease should halt the progression of pathology, but that early treatment may be imperative, as it appears that amyloid deposits, once formed, will require additional intervention to clear.
In a transgenic mouse that overexpressed amyloid beta, turning off production via a tetracycline sensitive switch did not decrease the number of amyloid plaques present
PMCID: PMC1283364  PMID: 16279840
Neurobiology of aging  2012;33(8):1848.e1-1848.13.
Nicastrin (NCSTN) is a component of the γ-secretase complex and therefore potentially a candidate risk gene for Alzheimer's disease. Here, we have developed a novel functional genomics methodology to express common locus haplotypes to assess functional differences. DNA recombination was used to engineer 5 bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) to each express a different haplotype of the NCSTN locus. Each NCSTN-BAC was delivered to knockout nicastrin (Ncstn−/−) cells and clonal NCSTN-BAC+/Ncstn−/− cell lines were created for functional analyses. We showed that all NCSTN-BAC haplotypes expressed nicastrin protein and rescued γ-secretase activity and amyloid beta (Aβ) production in NCSTN-BAC+/Ncstn−/− lines. We then showed that genetic variation at the NCSTN locus affected alternative splicing in human postmortem brain tissue. However, there was no robust functional difference between clonal cell lines rescued by each of the 5 different haplotypes. Finally, there was no statistically significant association of NCSTN with disease risk in the 4 cohorts. We therefore conclude that it is unlikely that common variation at the NCSTN locus is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.
PMCID: PMC3683320  PMID: 22405046
Nicastrin; Haplotype variation; Functional genomics; Alzheimer's disease; γ-Secretase complex
Neurology  2012;79(3):221-228.
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) identified 9 novel risk loci. Discovery of functional variants within genes at these loci is required to confirm their role in Alzheimer disease (AD). Single nucleotide polymorphisms that influence gene expression (eSNPs) constitute an important class of functional variants. We therefore investigated the influence of the novel LOAD risk loci on human brain gene expression.
We measured gene expression levels in the cerebellum and temporal cortex of autopsied AD subjects and those with other brain pathologies (∼400 total subjects). To determine whether any of the novel LOAD risk variants are eSNPs, we tested their cis-association with expression of 6 nearby LOAD candidate genes detectable in human brain (ABCA7, BIN1, CLU, MS4A4A, MS4A6A, PICALM) and an additional 13 genes ±100 kb of these SNPs. To identify additional eSNPs that influence brain gene expression levels of the novel candidate LOAD genes, we identified SNPs ±100 kb of their location and tested for cis-associations.
CLU rs11136000 (p = 7.81 × 10−4) and MS4A4A rs2304933/rs2304935 (p = 1.48 × 10−4–1.86 × 10−4) significantly influence temporal cortex expression levels of these genes. The LOAD-protective CLU and risky MS4A4A locus alleles associate with higher brain levels of these genes. There are other cis-variants that significantly influence brain expression of CLU and ABCA7 (p = 4.01 × 10−5–9.09 × 10−9), some of which also associate with AD risk (p = 2.64 × 10−2–6.25 × 10−5).
CLU and MS4A4A eSNPs may at least partly explain the LOAD risk association at these loci. CLU and ABCA7 may harbor additional strong eSNPs. These results have implications in the search for functional variants at the novel LOAD risk loci.
PMCID: PMC3398432  PMID: 22722634
A rare variant in the Triggering Receptor Expressed on Myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) gene has been reported to be a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease by two independent groups (Odds ratio between 2.9-4.5). Given the key role of TREM2 in the effective phagocytosis of apoptotic neuronal cells by microglia, we hypothesized that dysfunction of TREM2 may play a more generalized role in neurodegeneration. With this in mind we set out to assess the genetic association of the Alzheimer’s disease-related risk variant in TREM2 (rs75932628, p.R47H) with other related neurodegenerative disorders.
The study included 609 patients with frontotemporal dementia, 765 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, 1493 with Parkinson’s disease, 772 with progressive supranuclear palsy, 448 with ischemic stroke and 1957 controls subjects free of neurodegenerative disease. A significant association was observed for the TREM2 p.R47H substitution in susceptibility to frontotemporal dementia (OR = 5.06; p-value = 0.001) and Parkinson’s disease (OR = 2.67; p-value = 0.026), while no evidence of association with risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, progressive supranuclear palsy or ischemic stroke was observed.
Our results suggest that the TREM2 p.R47H substitution is a risk factor for frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson’s disease in addition to Alzheimer’s disease. These findings suggest a more general role for TREM2 dysfunction in neurodegeneration, which could be related to its role in the immune response.
PMCID: PMC3691612  PMID: 23800361
TREM2; Frontotemporal dementia; Parkinson disease; Genetic association
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e64164.
Leucine rich repeat transmembrane protein 3 (LRRTM3) is member of a synaptic protein family. LRRTM3 is a nested gene within α-T catenin (CTNNA3) and resides at the linkage peak for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) risk and plasma amyloid β (Aβ) levels. In-vitro knock-down of LRRTM3 was previously shown to decrease secreted Aβ, although the mechanism of this is unclear. In SH-SY5Y cells overexpressing APP and transiently transfected with LRRTM3 alone or with BACE1, we showed that LRRTM3 co-localizes with both APP and BACE1 in early endosomes, where BACE1 processing of APP occurs. Additionally, LRRTM3 co-localizes with APP in primary neuronal cultures from Tg2576 mice transduced with LRRTM3-expressing adeno-associated virus. Moreover, LRRTM3 co-immunoprecipitates with both endogenous APP and overexpressed BACE1, in HEK293T cells transfected with LRRTM3. SH-SY5Y cells with knock-down of LRRTM3 had lower BACE1 and higher CTNNA3 mRNA levels, but no change in APP. Brain mRNA levels of LRRTM3 showed significant correlations with BACE1, CTNNA3 and APP in ∼400 humans, but not in LRRTM3 knock-out mice. Finally, we assessed 69 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within and flanking LRRTM3 in 1,567 LOADs and 2,082 controls and identified 8 SNPs within a linkage disequilibrium block encompassing 5′UTR-Intron 1 of LRRTM3 that formed multilocus genotypes (MLG) with suggestive global association with LOAD risk (p = 0.06), and significant individual MLGs. These 8 SNPs were genotyped in an independent series (1,258 LOADs and 718 controls) and had significant global and individual MLG associations in the combined dataset (p = 0.02–0.05). Collectively, these results suggest that protein interactions between LRRTM3, APP and BACE1, as well as complex associations between mRNA levels of LRRTM3, CTNNA3, APP and BACE1 in humans might influence APP metabolism and ultimately risk of AD.
PMCID: PMC3672107  PMID: 23750206
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64802.
GRB-associated binding protein 2 (GAB2) represents a compelling genome-wide association signal for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) with reported odds ratios (ORs) ranging from 0.75–0.85. We tested eight GAB2 variants in four North American Caucasian case-control series (2,316 LOAD, 2,538 controls) for association with LOAD. Meta-analyses revealed ORs ranging from (0.61–1.20) with no significant association (all p>0.32). Four variants were hetergeneous across the populations (all p<0.02) due to a potentially inflated effect size (OR = 0.61–0.66) only observed in the smallest series (702 LOAD, 209 controls). Despite the lack of association in our series, the previously reported protective association for GAB2 remained after meta-analyses of our data with all available previously published series (11,952-22,253 samples; OR = 0.82–0.88; all p<0.04). Using a freely available database of lymphoblastoid cell lines we found that protective GAB2 variants were associated with increased GAB2 expression (p = 9.5×10−7−9.3×10−6). We next measured GAB2 mRNA levels in 249 brains and found that decreased neurofibrillary tangle (r = −0.34, p = 0.0006) and senile plaque counts (r = −0.32, p = 0.001) were both good predictors of increased GAB2 mRNA levels albeit that sex (r = −0.28, p = 0.005) may have been a contributing factor. In summary, we hypothesise that GAB2 variants that are protective against LOAD in some populations may act functionally to increase GAB2 mRNA levels (in lymphoblastoid cells) and that increased GAB2 mRNA levels are associated with significantly decreased LOAD pathology. These findings support the hypothesis that Gab2 may protect neurons against LOAD but due to significant population heterogeneity, it is still unclear whether this protection is detectable at the genetic level.
PMCID: PMC3665686  PMID: 23724096
The most recent late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) genome-wide association study revealed genome-wide significant association of two new loci: rs744373 near BIN1 (p=1.6×10−11) and rs597668 near EXOC3L2/BLOC1S3/MARK4 (p=6.5×10−9). We have genotyped these variants in a large (3,287 LOAD, 4,396 controls), independent dataset comprising eleven case-control series from the USA and Europe. We performed meta-analyses of the association of these variants with LOAD and also tested for association using logistic regression adjusted by age-at-diagnosis, sex and APOE ε4 status. Meta-analysis results showed no evidence of series heterogeneity and logistic regression analysis successfully replicated the association of BIN1 (rs744373) with LOAD with an odds ratio (OR=1.17, p=1.1×10−4) comparable to that previously reported (OR=1.15). The variant near EXOC3L2 (rs597668) showed only suggestive association with LOAD (p=0.09) after correcting for the presence of the APOE ε4 allele. Addition of our follow-up data to the results previously reported increased the strength of evidence for association with BIN1 (11,825 LOAD, 32,570 controls, rs744373 Fisher combined p=3.8×10−20). We also tested for epistatic interaction between these variants and APOEε4 as well as with the previously replicated LOAD GWAS genes (CLU: rs11136000, CR1; rs3818361, and PICALM: rs3851179). No significant interactions between these genes were detected. In summary, we provide additional evidence for the variant near BIN1 (rs744373) as a LOAD risk modifier, but our results indicate that the effect of EXOC3L2 independent of APOE ε4 should be studied further.
PMCID: PMC3489170  PMID: 21321396
Alzheimer Disease; Late Onset; Heterogeneity; Meta-Analysis; Case-Control Studies
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(16):3207-3212.
Expanded glutamine repeats of the ataxin-2 (ATXN2) protein cause spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2), a rare neurodegenerative disorder. More recent studies have suggested that expanded ATXN2 repeats are a genetic risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) via an RNA-dependent interaction with TDP-43. Given the phenotypic diversity observed in SCA2 patients, we set out to determine the polymorphic nature of the ATXN2 repeat length across a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders. In this study, we genotyped the ATXN2 repeat in 3919 neurodegenerative disease patients and 4877 healthy controls and performed logistic regression analysis to determine the association of repeat length with the risk of disease. We confirmed the presence of a significantly higher number of expanded ATXN2 repeat carriers in ALS patients compared with healthy controls (OR = 5.57; P= 0.001; repeat length >30 units). Furthermore, we observed significant association of expanded ATXN2 repeats with the development of progressive supranuclear palsy (OR = 5.83; P= 0.004; repeat length >30 units). Although expanded repeat carriers were also identified in frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients, these were not significantly more frequent than in controls. Of note, our study identified a number of healthy control individuals who harbor expanded repeat alleles (31–33 units), which suggests caution should be taken when attributing specific disease phenotypes to these repeat lengths. In conclusion, our findings confirm the role of ATXN2 as an important risk factor for ALS and support the hypothesis that expanded ATXN2 repeats may predispose to other neurodegenerative diseases, including progressive supranuclear palsy.
PMCID: PMC3140823  PMID: 21610160

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