Moderate treadmill exercise ameliorates amyloid-β-induced learning and memory impairment, possibly via increasing AMPK activity and up-regulation of the PGC-1α/FNDC5/BDNF pathway

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Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with loss of memory and cognitive abilities. Previous evidence suggested that exercise ameliorates learning and memory deficits by increasing brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and activating downstream pathways in AD animal models. However, upstream pathways related to increase BDNF induced by exercise in AD animal models are not well known. We investigated the effects of moderate treadmill exercise on Aβ-induced learning and memory impairment as well as the upstream pathway responsible for increasing hippocampal BDNF in an animal model of AD. Animals were divided into five groups: Intact, Sham, Aβ1−42, Sham-exercise (Sham-exe) and Aβ1−42-exercise (Aβ-exe). Aβ was microinjected into the CA1 area of the hippocampus and then animals in the exercise groups were subjected to moderate treadmill exercise (for 4 weeks with 5 sessions per week) 7days after microinjection. In the present study the Morris water maze (MWM) test was used to assess spatial learning and memory. Hippocampal mRNA levels of BDNF, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1 alpha (PGC-1α), fibronectin type III domain-containing 5 (FNDC5) as well as protein levels of AMPK-activated protein kinase (AMPK), PGC-1α, BDNF, phosphorylation of AMPK were measured. Our results showed that intra-hippocampal injection of Aβ1−42 impaired spatial learning and memory which was accompanied by reduced AMPK activity (p-AMPK/total-AMPK ratio) and suppression of the PGC-1α/FNDC5/BDNF pathway in the hippocampus of rats. In contrast, moderate treadmill exercise ameliorated the Aβ1−42-induced spatial learning and memory deficit, which was accompanied by restored AMPK activity and PGC-1α/FNDC5/BDNF levels. Our results suggest that the increased AMPK activity and up-regulation of the PGC-1α/FNDC5/BDNF pathway by exercise are likely involved in mediating the beneficial effects of exercise on Aβ-induced learning and memory impairment.

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