Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that threatens to reach epidemic proportions as our population ages. Although much research has examined molecular pathways associated with AD, relatively few studies have focused on critical early stages. Our prior microarray study correlated gene expression in human hippocampus with AD markers. Results suggested a new model of early-stage AD in which pathology spreads along myelinated axons, orchestrated by upregulated transcription and epigenetic factors related to growth and tumor suppression (Blalock et al., 2004). However, the microarray analyses were performed on RNA from fresh frozen hippocampal tissue blocks containing both gray and white matter, potentially obscuring region-specific changes. In the present study, we used laser capture microdissection to exclude major white matter tracts and selectively collect CA1 hippocampal gray matter from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) hippoc ampal sections of the same subjects assessed in our prior study. Microarray analyses of this gray matter-enriched tissue revealed many correlations similar to those seen in our prior study, particularly for neuron-related genes. Nonetheless, in the laser-captured tissue, we found a striking paucity of the AD-associated epigenetic and transcription factor genes that had been strongly overrepresented in the prior tissue block study. In addition, we identified novel pathway alterations that may have considerable mechanistic implications, including downregulation of genes stabilizing ryanodine receptor Ca2+ release and upregulation of vascular development genes. We conclude that FFPE tissue can be a reliable resource for microarray studies, that upregulation of growth-related epigenetic/ transcription factors with incipient AD is predominantly localized to white matter, further supporting our prior findings and model, and that alterations in vascular and ryanodine receptor-relat ed pathways in gray matter are closely associated with incipient AD.
Microarray analyses of laser-captured hippocampus reveal distinct gray and white matter signatures associated with incipient Alzheimer's disease.
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For these data, we analyzed hippocampal gene expression of nine control and 22 AD subjects of varying severity on 31 separate microarrays. We then tested the correlation of each gene's expression with MiniMental Status Examination (MMSE) and neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) scores across all 31 subjects regardless of diagnosis. These tests revealed a major transcriptional response comprising thousands of genes significantly correlated with AD markers. Several hundred of these genes were also correlated with AD markers across only control and incipient AD subjects (MMSE > 20).
Incipient Alzheimer's disease: microarray correlation analyses reveal major transcriptional and tumor suppressor responses.
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Recent microarray studies in the hippocampus of rodents or Alzheimers disease (AD) subjects have identified a substantial number of cellular pathways/processes correlated with aging and cognitive decline. However, the temporal relationships among these expression changes or with cognitive impairment have not been studied in depth. Here, using Affymetrix microarrays, immunohistochemistry and Morris water maze cognitive testing across 5 age groups of male F344 rats (n=9-15/group, one microarray per animal), we systematically analyzed the temporal sequence and cellular localization of aging changes in expression. These were correlated with performance scores on the hippocampus-dependent Morris Water Maze task. Significant microarray results were sorted in to Early, Intermediate, Midlife, and Late patterns of expression, and functionally categorized (Early- downregulated neural development, lipid synthesis and energy-utilization; upregulated ribosomal synthesis, growth, stress/inflammatory, lysosome and protein/lipid degradation. Intermediate- increased defense/inflammatory activation and decreased transporter activity; Midlife- downregulated energy-dependent signaling and neurite growth, upregulated astroglial activation, Ca2+-binding, cholesterol/lipid trafficking, myelinogenic processes and additional lysosome/inflammation; Late- further recruitment of genes in already-altered pathways). Immunohistochemistry revealed a primarily astrocytic localization of the processes upregulated in midlife, as well as increased density of myelin proteins. Evidence of cognitive impairment first appeared in the 12-month-old group (midlife) and was increased further in the 23-month-old group, exhibiting the highest correlations with some upregulated genes related to cholesterol transport (e.g., Apoe, Abca2), protein management and ion binding. Some upregulated genes for inflammation (Il6st) and myelinogenesis (Pmp22) also correlated with impairment. Together, the data are consistent with a novel sequential cascade model of brain aging in which metabolic alterations early in maturity are followed by inflammation and midlife activation of an astrocyte-centered cholesterol trafficking pathway that stimulates oligodendrocyte remyelination programs. Importantly, this cholesterol trafficking pathway also may compete for astroglial bioenergetic support of neurons, in turn, leading to downregulation of energy-dependent pathways needed to sustain cognitive functions.
Hippocampal and cognitive aging across the lifespan: a bioenergetic shift precedes and increased cholesterol trafficking parallels memory impairment.
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Male Fischer 344 rats aged 4 months (young, n=10), 14 months (mid-aged, n=10), and 24 months (aged, n=10) were trained sequentially on two tasks: Morris Spatial Water Maze (SWM) and Object Memory Task (OMT). The training/testing sequence lasted 7 d, and hippocampal tissue was collected 24 hr later. Training and testing occured on each day except for days 2 and 3 of the 7 d sequence.
Gene microarrays in hippocampal aging: statistical profiling identifies novel processes correlated with cognitive impairment.
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Hippocampal overexpression of FK506-binding protein 12.6/1b (FKBP1b), a negative regulator of ryanodine receptor Ca2+ release, reverses aging-induced memory impairment and neuronal Ca2+ dysregulation. Here, we test the hypothesis that FKBP1b also can protect downstream transcriptional networks from aging-induced dysregulation. We gave hippocampal microinjections of FKBP1b-expressing viral vector to male rats at either 13-months-of-age (long-term) or 19-months-of-age (short-term) and tested memory performance in the Morris water maze at 21-months-of-age. Aged rats treated short- or long-term with FKBP1b substantially outperformed age-matched vector controls and performed similarly to each other and young controls. Transcriptional profiling in the same animals identified 2342 genes whose hippocampal expression was up-/down-regulated in aged controls vs. young controls (the aging effect). Of these aging-dependent genes, 876 (37%) also showed altered expression in aged FKBP1b-treated rats compared to aged controls, with FKBP1b restoring expression of essentially all such genes (872/876, 99.5%) in the direction opposite the aging effect and closer to levels in young controls. This inverse relationship between the aging and FKBP1b effects suggests that the aging effects arise from FKBP1b deficiency. Functional category analysis revealed that genes downregulated with aging and restored by FKBP1b associated predominantly with diverse brain structure categories, including cytoskeleton, membrane channels and extracellular region. Conversely, genes upregulated with aging but not restored by FKBP1b associated primarily with glial-neuroinflammatory, ribosomal and lysosomal categories. Immunohistochemistry confirmed aging-induced rarefaction, and FKBP1b-mediated restoration, of neuronal microtubular structure. Thus, a previously-unrecognized genomic network modulating diverse brain structural processes is dysregulated by aging and restored by FKBP1b overexpression.
FK506-Binding Protein 12.6/1b, a Negative Regulator of [Ca<sup>2+</sup>], Rescues Memory and Restores Genomic Regulation in the Hippocampus of Aging Rats.
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Although glucocorticoids (GCs) are known to exert numerous effects in the hippocampus, their chronic regulatory functions remain poorly understood. Moreover, evidence is inconsistent regarding the longstanding hypothesis that chronic GC exposure promotes brain aging/Alzheimer's disease. Here, we adrenalectomized male F344 rats at 15-months-of-age, maintained them for 3 months with implanted corticosterone (CORT) pellets producing low or intermediate (glucocorticoid-receptor (GR)-activating) blood levels of CORT, and performed microarray/pathway analyses in hippocampal CA1. We defined the chronic GC-dependent transcriptome as 393 genes that exhibited differential expression between Intermediate- and Low-CORT groups. Short-term CORT (4 days) did not recapitulate this transcriptome. Functional processes/pathways overrepresented by chronic CORT-upregulated genes included learning/plasticity, differentiation, glucose metabolism and cholesterol biosynthesis, whereas processes overrepresented by CORT-downregulated genes included inflammatory/immune/glial responses and extracellular structure. These profiles indicate that GCs chronically activate neuronal/metabolic processes while coordinately repressing a glial axis of reactivity/inflammation. We then compared the GC-transcriptome with a previously-defined hippocampal aging transcriptome, revealing a high proportion of common genes. Although CORT and aging moved expression of some common genes in the same-direction, the majority were shifted in opposite directions by CORT and aging (e.g., glial inflammatory genes downregulated by CORT are upregulated with aging). These results contradict the hypothesis that GCs simply promote brain aging, and also suggest that the opposite-direction shifts during aging reflect resistance to CORT regulation. Therefore, we propose a new model in which aging-related GC resistance develops in some target pathways while GC overstimulation develops in others, together generating much of the brain aging phenotype.
Glucocorticoid-dependent hippocampal transcriptome in male rats: pathway-specific alterations with aging.
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Although immediate early genes (IEGs) such as Bdnf, Arc and Egr1, have been implicated in plasticity, the larger pathways related to memory and memory disorders are not well understood. Here, we combined statistical Affymetrix microarray and behavioral analyses to identify key genes and pathways associated with aging-related cognitive impairment. Aged rats were separated into cognitively unimpaired (AU) or impaired (AI) groups, based on their Morris water maze performance relative to young-adult (Y) animals. Hippocampal gene expression was assessed in Y, AU and AI on the fifth (last) day of maze training or 21 days posttraining, and in non-trained aged and young animals (eight groups, overall n = 78, one chip/animal). ANOVA, linear contrasts, and overrepresentation analyses identified genes and pathways that differed from Y generally with aging (in both AU and AI) or selectively with cognitive status (only in AI or AU). Plasticity pathways, including insulin/cAMP/IEG signaling, and glycogenolytic and lipogenic pathways, were selectively downregulated (5 days) in AI, whereas Notch2 (regulating oligodendrocyte differentiation) and myelination pathways were upregulated (particularly at 21 days). Downregulation with general aging occurred in signal transduction and axonal growth/transport pathways, whereas upegulation occurred in immune/inflammatory, lipid metabolism/transport (e.g., Lxr-Srebf1), and lysosomal pathways. In AU, receptor/signal transduction genes were selectively upregulated, suggesting possible compensatory mechanisms. Immunohistochemistry confirmed and extended results to the protein level. Thus, this study identified novel cognition-linked processes, suggesting a new model in which energy-intensive, plasticity/lipogenic processes and energy-generating pathways necessary for learning are coordinately downregulated during training, while myelinogenic programs that impair cognition are concurrently activated.
Hippocampal expression analyses reveal selective association of immediate-early, neuroenergetic, and myelinogenic pathways with cognitive impairment in aged rats.
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Vitamin D is an important calcium-regulating hormone with diverse functions in numerous tissues including the brain. Increasing evidence suggests that vitamin D may play a role in maintaining cognitive function and that vitamin D deficiency may accelerate age-related cognitive decline. Using aging rodents, we attempted to model the range of human serum vitamin D levels, from deficient to sufficient, to test whether vitamin D could preserve or improve cognitive function with aging. For 5-6 months, middle-aged F344 rats were fed diets containing low, medium (typical amount) or high vitamin D3 (100, 1000 or 10,000 IU/kg diet, respectively) and then hippocampal-dependent learning and memory were tested in the Morris water maze. Rats on high vitamin D achieved the highest blood levels (in the sufficient range) and significantly outperformed low and medium groups on maze reversal, a particularly challenging task that detects more subtle changes in memory. In addition to calcium-related processes, hippocampal gene expression microarrays identified pathways pertaining to synaptic transmission, cell communication and G-protein function as being up-regulated with high vitamin D. Basal synaptic transmission also was enhanced corroborating observed effects on gene expression and learning and memory. Our studies demonstrate a causal relationship between vitamin D status and cognitive function and suggest that vitamin D-mediated changes in hippocampal gene expression may improve the likelihood of successful brain aging.
Vitamin D prevents cognitive decline and enhances hippocampal synaptic function in aging rats.
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Metabolic, mitochondrial and behavioral correlations with transcriptional profiles from the CA1 and DG hippocampal regions of young and aged rhesus macaque. Increasing evidence indicates that obesity correlates with impaired cognitive performance during normal aging and is a major risk factor for Alzheimers disease. However, little is known regarding how peripheral metabolic variables affect cellular pathways in brain regions important for memory. Brain inflammation, mitochondrial dysregulation, and altered transcriptional regulation have all been found to occur with aging, and recent microarray analyses in rodent models have linked these processes and others to age-related memory impairment. However, whether these brain changes are also associated with metabolic variables is not known. Aging monkeys exhibit several metabolic changes similar to those seen in humans. Here, we tested peripheral-brain relationships in six young (7.0 +/- 0.3 years) and six aged (23.5 +/- 0.7 years) female rhesus monkeys. Animal cognition was gauged with a variable delay task; blood constituents were assessed with a serum chemistry panel emphasizing markers of metabolic dysfunction; mitochondrial function was measured from the hippocampus of one hemisphere; and the CA1 and dentate gyrus regions of the other hippocampus were dissected out for gene expression microarray analysis. Aged animals showed reduced performance on the behavioral task, exhibited aspects of metabolic dysregulation including increased insulin, triglyceride, and chylomicron levels (consolidated into a peripheral metabolic index), and showed a significant age-related reduction in State III oxidation, a measure of mitochondrial function. Microarray analyses revealed hundreds of genes that correlated with the peripheral metabolic index. However, DAVID statistical pathway analyses showed that upregulated inflammatory genes in CA1 and downregulated transcriptional regulation genes in dentate gyrus and CA1 were particularly overrepresented among genes correlated with the peripheral index. Thus, the association of metabolic variables with specific neuropathological processes in different regions of the hippocampal formation may have implications for mechanisms through which peripheral metabolism alters the risk for Alzheimers disease.
Aging-related gene expression in hippocampus proper compared with dentate gyrus is selectively associated with metabolic syndrome variables in rhesus monkeys.
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Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are agonists at peroxisome proliferator-activated gamma-type (PPAR-y) receptors and are used clinically for the treatment of type 2 diabetes where they have been shown to reestablish insulin sensitivity, improve lipids profile, and reduce inflammation. Recent work also suggests that TZDs may be beneficial in Alzheimer's disease (AD), ameliorating cognitive decline early in the disease process. However, there have been only a few studies identifying mechanisms through which cognitive benefits may be exerted. Starting at 10 months of age, the triple transgenic mouse model of AD (3xTg-AD) with accelerated amyloid-B (AB) deposition and tau pathology was treated with the TZD pioglitazone (PIO- Actos) at 18 mg/Kg body weight/day. After four months, PIO-treated animals showed multiple beneficial effects, including improved learning on the active avoidance task, reduced serum cholesterol, decreased hippocampal AB deposits, and enhanced short- and long-term plasticity. Baseline electrophysiological membrane properties and blood glucose levels were unchanged by PIO treatment. Gene microarray analyses of hippocampal tissue identified predicted transcriptional responses following TZD treatment as well as potentially novel targets of TZDs, including facilitation of estrogenic processes, and decreases in glutamatergic and ketone metabolic/ cholesterol dependent processes. Taken together, these results confirm prior animal studies showing that TZDs can ameliorate cognitive deficits associated with AD-related pathology, but also extend these findings by pointing to novel molecular targets in the brain.
Long-term pioglitazone treatment improves learning and attenuates pathological markers in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.
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