Occludin deficiency with BACE1 elevation in cerebral amyloid angiopathy

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A significant cause of spontaneous hemorrhages in the elderly is cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), which causes degeneration of cerebral vessels, but the mechanisms are unclear.


We isolated leptomeningeal vessels from rapidly autopsied brains (the average of postmortem intervals was 3.28 hours) from 9 patients with CAA and 10 age-matched controls, and used molecular, cell biology, and immunohistochemical approaches to examine β-site APP-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) protein expression and enzymatic activities as well as tight junction molecular components in small- and medium-sized arteries of the cerebral cortex and leptomeninges.


We not only identified that the cerebral vessels, including leptomeningeal and cortical vessels, synthesize and express BACE1, but also found a significant elevation of both BACE1 protein levels and enzymatic activities in leptomeningeal vessels from patients with CAA. Moreover, overexpression of BACE1 in endothelial cells resulted in a significant reduction of occludin, a tight junction protein in blood vessels.


These findings suggest that in addition to neurons, cerebral vascular cells express functional BACE1. Moreover, elevated vascular BACE1 may contribute to deficiency of occludin in cerebral vessels, which ultimately has a critical role in pathogenesis of CAA and its related hemorrhage.

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