APP/PS1 mice overexpressing SREBP-2 exhibit combined Aβ accumulation and tau pathology underlying Alzheimer's disease

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Current evidence indicates that excess brain cholesterol regulates amyloid-β (Aβ) deposition, which in turn can regulate cholesterol homeostasis. Moreover, Aβ neurotoxicity is potentiated, in part, by mitochondrial glutathione (mGSH) depletion. To better understand the relationship between alterations in cholesterol homeostasis and Alzheimer's disease (AD), we generated a triple transgenic mice featuring sterol regulatory element-binding protein-2 (SREBP-2) overexpression in combination with APPswe/PS1ΔE9 mutations (APP/PS1) to examine key biochemical and functional characteristics of AD. Unlike APP/PS1 mice, APP/PS1/SREBP-2 mice exhibited early mitochondrial cholesterol loading and mGSH depletion. Moreover, β-secretase activation and Aβ accumulation, correlating with oxidative damage and neuroinflammation, were accelerated in APP/PS1/SREBP-2 mice compared with APP/PS1 mice. Triple transgenic mice displayed increased synaptotoxicity reflected by loss of synaptophysin and neuronal death, resulting in early object-recognition memory impairment associated with deficits in spatial memory. Interestingly, tau pathology was present in APP/PS1/SREBP-2 mice, manifested by increased tau hyperphosphorylation and cleavage, activation of tau kinases and neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) formation without expression of mutated tau. Importantly, in vivo treatment with the cell permeable GSH ethyl ester, which restored mGSH levels in APP/PS1/SREBP-2 mice, partially prevented the activation of tau kinases, reduced abnormal tau aggregation and Aβ deposition, resulting in attenuated synaptic degeneration. Taken together, these results show that cholesterol-mediated mGSH depletion is a key event in AD progression, accelerating the onset of key neuropathological hallmarks of the disease. Thus, therapeutic approaches to recover mGSH may represent a relevant strategy in the treatment of AD.

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