Interaction between APOE4 genotype and environmental risk factors in Alzheimer's disease

Maioli, Silvia (2011) Interaction between APOE4 genotype and environmental risk factors in Alzheimer's disease, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Biotecnologie, farmacologia e tossicologia: progetto n. 2 "Farmacologia e tossicologia", 23 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/3463.
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Alzheimer's disease (AD) is probably caused by both genetic and environmental risk factors. The major genetic risk factor is the E4 variant of apolipoprotein E gene called apoE4. Several risk factors for developing AD have been identified including lifestyle, such as dietary habits. The mechanisms behind the AD pathogenesis and the onset of cognitive decline in the AD brain are presently unknown. In this study we wanted to characterize the effects of the interaction between environmental risk factors and apoE genotype on neurodegeneration processes, with particular focus on behavioural studies and neurodegenerative processes at molecular level. Towards this aim, we used 6 months-old apoE4 and apoE3 Target Replacement (TR) mice fed on different diets (high intake of cholesterol and high intake of carbohydrates). These mice were evaluated for learning and memory deficits in spatial reference (Morris Water Maze (MWM)) and contextual learning (Passive Avoidance) tasks, which involve the hippocampus and the amygdala, respectively. From these behavioural studies we found that the initial cognitive impairments manifested as a retention deficit in apoE4 mice fed on high carbohydrate diet. Thus, the genetic risk factor apoE4 genotype associated with a high carbohydrate diet seems to affect cognitive functions in young mice, corroborating the theory that the combination of genetic and environmental risk factors greatly increases the risk of developing AD and leads to an earlier onset of cognitive deficits. The cellular and molecular bases of the cognitive decline in AD are largely unknown. In order to determine the molecular changes for the onset of the early cognitive impairment observed in the behavioural studies, we performed molecular studies, with particular focus on synaptic integrity and Tau phosphorylation. The most relevant finding of our molecular studies showed a significant decrease of Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in apoE4 mice fed on high carbohydrate diet. Our results may suggest that BDNF decrease found in apoE4 HS mice could be involved in the earliest impairment in long-term reference memory observed in behavioural studies. The second aim of this thesis was to study possible involvement of leptin in AD. There is growing evidence that leptin has neuroprotective properties in the Central Nervous System (CNS). Recent evidence has shown that leptin and its receptors are widespread in the CNS and may provide neuronal survival signals. However, there are still numerous questions, regarding the molecular mechanism by which leptin acts, that remain unanswered. Thus, given to the importance of the involvement of leptin in AD, we wanted to clarify the function of leptin in the pathogenesis of AD and to investigate if apoE genotype affect leptin levels through studies in vitro, in mice and in human. Our findings suggest that apoE4 TR mice showed an increase of leptin in the brain. Leptin levels are also increased in the cerebral spinal fluid of AD patients and apoE4 carriers with AD have higher levels of leptin than apoE3 carriers. Moreover, leptin seems to be expressed by reactive glial cells in AD brains. In vitro, ApoE4 together with Amyloid beta increases leptin production by microglia and astrocytes. Taken together, all these findings suggest that leptin replacement might not be a good strategy for AD therapy. Our results show that high leptin levels were found in AD brains. These findings suggest that, as high leptin levels do not promote satiety in obese individuals, it might be possible that they do not promote neuroprotection in AD patients. Therefore, we hypothesized that AD brain could suffer from leptin resistance. Further studies will be critical to determine whether or not the central leptin resistance in SNC could affect its potential neuroprotective effects.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Maioli, Silvia
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze biologiche, biomediche e biotecnologiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Alzheimer, apoE, leptin, mice
Data di discussione
6 Aprile 2011

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