Image_5_Chronic Presence of Oligomeric Aβ Differentially Modulates Spine Parameters in the Hippocampus and Cortex of Mice With Low APP Transgene Expression.TIF
Alzheimer’s disease is regarded as a synaptopathy with a long presymptomatic phase. Soluble, oligomeric amyloid-β (Aβ) is thought to play a causative role in this disease, which eventually leads to cognitive decline. However, most animal studies have employed mice expressing high levels of the Aβ precursor protein (APP) transgene to drive pathology. Here, to understand how the principal neurons in different brain regions cope with moderate, chronically present levels of Aβ, we employed transgenic mice expressing equal levels of mouse and human APP carrying a combination of three familial AD (FAD)-linked mutations (Swedish, Dutch, and London), that develop plaques only in old age. We analyzed dendritic spine parameters in hippocampal and cortical brain regions after targeted expression of EGFP to allow high-resolution imaging, followed by algorithm-based evaluation of mice of both sexes from adolescence to old age. We report that Aβ species gradually accumulated throughout the life of APPSDL mice, but not the oligomeric forms, and that the amount of membrane-associated oligomers decreased at the onset of plaque formation. We observed an age-dependent loss of thin spines under most conditions as an indicator of a loss of synaptic plasticity in older mice. We further found that hippocampal pyramidal neurons respond to increased Aβ levels by lowering spine density and shifting spine morphology, which reached significance in the CA1 subfield. In contrast, the spine density in cortical pyramidal neurons of APPSDL mice was unchanged. We also observed an increase in the protein levels of PSD-95 and Arc in the hippocampus and cortex, respectively. Our data demonstrated that increased concentrations of Aβ have diverse effects on dendritic spines in the brain and suggest that hippocampal and cortical neurons have different adaptive and compensatory capacity during their lifetime. Our data also indicated that spine morphology differs between sexes in a region-specific manner.