George Perry, Xiongwei Zhu, Mark A. Smith, Aaron Sorensen, Jesús Avila
1 - 1
The success of Alzheimer's Disease: A Century of Scientific and Clinical Research, a retrospective of milestones in Alzheimer's disease (AD) exploration coinciding with completion of the first century of AD research, led colleagues and our publisher to encourage us to examine the progress defining AD in the coming century.
The rich and colorful history of gene discovery in Alzheimer's disease (AD) over the past three decades is as complex and heterogeneous as the disease, itself. Twin and family studies indicate that genetic factors are estimated to play a role in at least 80% of AD cases. The inheritance of AD exhibits a dichotomous pattern. On one hand, rare mutations in APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 are fully penetrant for early-onset (<60 years) familial AD, which represents <5% of AD. On the other hand, common gene polymorphisms, such as the ε4 and ε2 variants of the APOE gene, influence susceptibility for common (>95%) late-onset AD. These four genes account for 30–50% of the inheritability of AD. Genome-wide association studies have recently led to the identification of additional highly confirmed AD candidate genes. Here, I review the past, present, and future of attempts to elucidate the complex and heterogeneous genetic underpinnings of AD along with some of the unique events that made these discoveries possible.
Over the past 5 years, there has been considerable advancement in the genetics of Alzheimer's disease. This review will provide an overview of the current state of the field for analysis of genetic variation and Alzheimer's disease. Highlighted in this review will be the results from some of the more conventional approaches, including linkage and association studies, as well as an overview of an alternate approach: eQTL analysis. The emphasis will be on taking genomics to the next level by applying additional datasets to truly create maps of a 3-dimensional Alzheimer's genome by including the downstream effects of risk variation.
The papers selected by the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease for commentary cover three interlinked areas of research: the search for genetic susceptibility of trait markers, the search for biomarkers or state markers, and the search for novel therapeutic targets through an understanding of the mechanisms of disease. This work is reviewed and some directions of travel for the next phase of research suggested. Specifically both state and trait marker research will benefit from advances in technology but will require, on the one hand, larger sample sets and, on the other, the use of study designs other than case-control. Routine collection of data through the electronic medical record coupled with samples collected in clinical care represents a major opportunity to scale these studies. Success in identifying trait markers for stratification and state markers for experimental medicine may be necessary to exploit the increased understanding of mechanisms and the new therapeutic opportunities this is allowing.
Tania F. Gendron, Rosa Rademakers, Leonard Petrucelli
35 - 45
The identification of TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) as the major disease protein in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin inclusions has defined a new class of neurodegenerative conditions: the TDP-43 proteinopathies. This breakthrough was quickly followed by mutation analysis of TARDBP, the gene encoding TDP-43. Herein, we provide a review of our previously published efforts that led to the identification of 3 TARDBP mutations (p.M337V, p.N345K, and p.I383V) in familial ALS patients, two of which were novel. With over 40 TARDBP mutations now discovered, there exists conclusive evidence that TDP-43 plays a direct role in neurodegeneration. The onus is now on researchers to elucidate the mechanisms by which mutant TDP-43 confers toxicity, and to exploit these findings to gain a better understanding of how TDP-43 contributes to the pathogenesis of disease. Our biochemical analysis of TDP-43 in ALS patient lymphoblastoid cell lines revealed a substantial increase in TDP-43 truncation products, including a ~25 kDa fragment, compared to control lymphoblastoid cell lines. We discuss the putative harmful consequence of abnormal TDP-43 fragmentation, as well as highlight additional mechanisms of toxicity associated with mutant TDP-43.
The oligomer hypothesis for Alzheimer's disease (AD) was introduced in 1998. It was based on evidence that oligomers could exist free of amyloid fibrils, that fibril-free oligomer solutions rapidly inhibited long term potentiation, and that oligomers ultimately caused a highly selective nerve cell death. Fibrils no longer were the only toxins made by amyloid-β (Aβ), and likely not the most important ones. Oligomers provided a new basis for instigating AD. Since introduction of the hypothesis, more than 1,500 articles on oligomers have been published. Articles for this review were selected for contributions to oligomer theory at three different levels. The first set demonstrated new aspects of oligomer pathobiology in cell models, showing that exposure of neurons to oligomers is sufficient to cause key features of AD neuropathology. The second set confirmed the relationship between oligomers and salient AD neuropathology in animal models, consistent with other in vivo studies that overall have substantiated cell-based discoveries. The third set developed strategies for therapeutic targeting of oligomers, introducing both small molecule and antibody-based approaches. These and related findings from many groups have helped establish oligomers as central to the mechanism of AD pathogenesis. Comprising a ligand-based attack on specific synapses, the action of toxic oligomers gives a molecular basis to account for key features of AD neuropathology and to explain why early disease targets memory. Although there still is no effective treatment for AD, insights over the past five years raise hopes that new approaches targeting Aβ oligomers could finally bring disease-modifying therapeutics.
Amyloid oligomers have emerged as the most toxic species of amyloid-β (Aβ). This hypothesis might explain the lack of correlation between amyloid plaques and memory impairment or cellular dysfunction. However, despite the numerous published research articles supporting the critical role Aβ oligomers in synaptic dysfunction and cell death, the exact definition and mechanism of amyloid oligomers formation and toxicity still elusive. Here we review the evidence supporting the many molecular mechanisms proposed for amyloid oligomers toxicity and suggest that the complexity and dynamic nature of amyloid oligomers may be responsible for the discrepancy among these mechanisms and the proposed cellular targets for amyloid oligomers.
Amyloid-β (Aβ) deposition in the brain is one of the key pathological features of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Neither traditional clinical-pathological studies nor modern in vivo biomarker investigations of brain amyloid load, however, could reveal a convincing relationship between brain Aβ load and cognitive deficits and decline in patients with AD. Evidence suggests that pathophysiological Aβ dysregulation and accumulation are very early events that precede the onset of cognitive impairment reaching a plateau at the clinical stage of the beginning dementia syndrome. Therefore, research efforts have focused on the role of Aβ in asymptomatic older adults: the results of combined amyloid-PET and neuropsychological studies show a modest but significant correlation between brain fibrillar amyloid load and various subtle cognitive deficits, most notably in challenging episodic associative memory tasks. In order to elucidate the pathophysiological link between cognition and Aβ, a number of combined functional neuroimaging studies have been performed, resulting in early and complex functional alterations in cognitively relevant neural networks such as the default mode network and the largely overlapping episodic memory networks. Multimodal studies using amyloid-tracing imaging methods and neurodegeneration biomarkers strongly suggest that neural network discoordination is specifically related to Aβ-mediated functional and potentially reversible disruption of synaptic plasticity rather than a direct consequence to neurodegenerative pathological processes. These pathophysiological processes and mechanisms may dynamically and non-linearly evolve through fully reversible adaptive compensatory stages and through reactive decompensatory stages into fully irreversible neurodegenerative stages of AD.
Abhay P. Sagare, Robert D. Bell, Berislav V. Zlokovic
87 - 100
The evidence that neurovascular dysfunction is an integral part of Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis has continued to emerge in the last decade. Changes in the brain vasculature have been shown to contribute to the onset and progression of the pathological processes associated with AD, such as microvascular reductions, blood brain barrier (BBB) breakdown, and faulty clearance of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) from the brain. Herein, we review the role of the neurovascular unit and molecular mechanisms in cerebral vascular cells behind the pathogenesis of AD. In particular, we focus on molecular pathways within cerebral vascular cells and the systemic circulation that contribute to BBB dysfunction, brain hypoperfusion, and impaired clearance of Aβ from the brain. We aim to provide a summary of recent research findings implicated in neurovascular defects and faulty Aβ vascular clearance contributing to AD pathogenesis.
Javier Pacheco-Quinto, Aimee Herdt, Christopher B. Eckman, Elizabeth A. Eckman
101 - 110
The efficient clearance of amyloid-β (Aβ) is essential to modulate levels of the peptide in the brain and to prevent it from accumulating in senile plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology. We and others have shown that failure in Aβ catabolism can produce elevations in Aβ concentration similar to those observed in familial forms of AD. Based on the available evidence, it remains plausible that in late-onset AD, disturbances in the activity of Aβ degrading enzymes could induce Aβ accumulation, and that this increase could result in AD pathology. The following review presents a historical perspective of the parallel discovery of three vasopeptidases (neprilysin and endothelin-converting enzymes-1 and -2) as important Aβ degrading enzymes. The recognition of the role of these vasopeptidases in Aβ degradation, beyond bringing to light a possible explanation of how cardiovascular risk factors may influence AD risk, highlights a possible risk of the use of inhibitors of these enzymes for other clinical indications such as hypertension. We will discuss in detail the experiments conducted to assess the impact of vasopeptidase deficiency (through pharmacological inhibition or genetic mutation) on Aβ accumulation, as well as the cooperative effect of multiple Aβ degrading enzymes to regulate the concentration of the peptide at multiple sites, both intracellular and extracellular, throughout the brain.
Amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) is considered a key protein in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) because of its neurotoxicity and capacity to form characteristic insoluble deposits known as senile plaques. Aβ derives from amyloid-β protein precursor (AβPP), whose proteolytic processing generates several fragments including Aβ peptides of various lengths. The normal function of AβPP and its fragments remains poorly understood. While some fragments have been suggested to have a function in normal physiological cellular processes, Aβ has been widely considered as a “garbage” fragment that becomes toxic when it accumulates in the brain, resulting in impaired synaptic function and memory. Aβ is produced and released physiologically in the healthy brain during neuronal activity. In the last 10 years, we have been investigating whether Aβ plays a physiological role in the brain. We first demonstrated that picomolar concentrations of a human Aβ42 preparation enhanced synaptic plasticity and memory in mice. Next, we investigated the role of endogenous Aβ in healthy murine brains and found that treatment with a specific antirodent Aβ antibody and an siRNA against murine AβPP impaired synaptic plasticity and memory. The concurrent addition of human Aβ42 rescued these deficits, suggesting that in the healthy brain, physiological Aβ concentrations are necessary for normal synaptic plasticity and memory to occur. Furthermore, the effect of both exogenous and endogenous Aβ was seen to be mediated by modulation of neurotransmitter release and α7-nicotinic receptors. These findings need to be taken into consideration when designing novel therapeutic strategies for AD.
Microtubule associated protein tau is a phosphoprotein which potentially has 80 serine/threonine and 5 tyrosine phosphorylation sites. Normal brain tau contains 2-3 moles of phosphate per mole of the protein. In Alzheimer's disease brain, tau is abnormally hyperphosphorylated to a stoichiometry of at least three-fold greater than normal tau, and in this altered state it is aggregated into paired helical filaments forming neurofibrillary tangles, a histopathological hallmark of the disease. The abnormal hyperphosphorylation of tau is also a hallmark of several other related neurodegenerative disorders, called tauopathies. The density of neurofibrillary tangles in the neocortex correlates with dementia and, hence, is a rational therapeutic target and an area of increasing research interest. Development of rational tau-based therapeutic drugs requires understanding of the role of various phosphorylation sites, protein kinases and phosphatases, and post-translational modifications that regulate the phosphorylation of this protein at various sites, as well as the molecular mechanism by which the abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau leads to neurodegeneration and dementia. In this article we briefly review the progress made in these areas of research.
Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) is a ubiquitously expressed serine/threonine kinase that plays a key role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). GSK3 phosphorylates tau in most serine and threonine residues hyperphosphorylated in paired helical filaments, and GSK3 activity contributes both to amyloid-β production and amyloid-β-mediated neuronal death. Thus, mice generated in our laboratory with conditional overexpression of GSK3 in forebrain neurons (Tet/GSK3β mice) recapitulate aspects of AD neuropathology such as tau hyperphosphorylation, apoptotic neuronal death, and reactive astrocytosis, as well as spatial learning deficit. In this review, we describe recent contributions of our group showing that transgene shutdown in that animal model leads to normal GSK3 activity, normal phospho-tau levels, diminished neuronal death, and suppression of the cognitive deficit, thus further supporting the potential of GSK3 inhibitors for AD therapeutics. In addition, we have combined transgenic mice overexpressing the enzyme GSK3β with transgenic mice expressing tau with a triple FTDP-17 mutation that develop prefibrillar tau-aggregates. Our data suggest that progression of the tauopathy can be prevented by administration of lithium when the first signs of neuropathology appear. Further, it is possible to partially reverse tau pathology in advanced stages of the disease, although the presence of already assembled neurofibrillary tangle-like structures cannot be reversed.
The pathological accumulation of the microtubule-binding protein tau is linked to an increasing number of neurodegenerative conditions associated with aging, though the mechanisms by which tau accumulates in disease are unclear. In this review, we will summarize our previous research assessing the mechanism of action, as well as the therapeutic potential of Hsp90 inhibition for the treatment of tauopathies. Specifically, we describe the development of a high-throughput screening approach to identify and rank compounds, and demonstrate the selective elimination of aberrant p-tau species in the brain following treatment with an Hsp90 inhibitor. Additionally, we identify CHIP as an essential component of the Hsp90 chaperone complex that mediates tau degradation, and present evidence to suggest that CHIP functions to identify and sequester neurotoxic tau species. Finally, we discuss recent data identifying an additional mechanism by which CHIP modulates protein triage decisions involving Hsp90. Specifically, CHIP indirectly regulates Hsp90 chaperone activity by modulating steady-state levels of the Hsp90 deacetylase, HDAC6, thus influencing both the acetylation state and function of Hsp90. Thus future research directions will focus on the manipulation of this network to promote degradation of pathogenic tau species in disease.
Tau lesions (pretangles, neuropil threads, neurofibrillary tangles) that develop in a few types of nerve cells in the brain are essential to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The formation of non-argyrophilic pretangles marks the beginning of the pathological process and is of increasing interest because it is temporally closer to the prevailing conditions that induce the pathological process underlying AD in contrast to late-stage disease. Not all of the pretangle material, however, converts into argyrophilic neurofibrillary lesions. The propensity to develop tau lesions may be related to the exceptionally protracted myelination of late developing portions in the human brain.
Paul M. Matthews, Nicola Filippini, Gwenaëlle Douaud
163 - 172
In our contribution to this special issue focusing on advances in Alzheimer's disease (AD) research since the centennial, we will briefly review some of our own studies applying magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures of function and connectivity for characterization of genetic contributions to the neuropathology of AD and as candidate biomarkers. We review how functional MRI during both memory encoding and at rest is able to define APOE4 genotype-dependent physiological changes decades before potential development of AD and demonstrate changes distinct from those with healthy aging. More generally, imaging provides a powerful quantitative measure of phenotype for understanding associations arising from whole genome studies in AD. Structural connectivity measures derived from diffusion tensor MRI (DTI) methods offer additional markers of neuropathology arising from the secondary changes in axonal caliber and myelination that accompany decreased neuronal activity and neurodegeneration. We illustrate applications of DTI for more finely mapping neurodegenerative changes with AD in the thalamus in vivo and for defining neuropathological changes in the white matter itself. The latter efforts have highlighted how sensitivity to the neuropathology can be enhanced by using more specific DTI measures and interpreting them relative to knowledge of local white matter anatomy in the healthy brain. Together, our studies and related work are helping to establish the exciting potential of a new range of MRI methods as neuropathological measures and as biomarkers of disease progression.
The invitation to contribute to “Alzheimer's Disease: Advances for a New Century” gave me an opportunity to briefly summarize my personal opinions about how the field of neuropathology has evolved. The goal is to briefly exemplify the changes that have influenced the way we conduct our diagnostic work as well as the way we interpret our results. From an era of histological stains, we have moved to visualization of altered proteins in predicted brain regions; we have also realized that in many aged subjects, not one but a plethora of co-pathologies are seen, and finally, we have become aware that the degenerative process is initiated much earlier than we ever suspected.
Progressive cognitive impairment and its clinical culmination in dementia loom as a major public health problem in the coming generation of older adults, and this fact compels investigation to develop interventions that prevent, delay, or cure. The tools of anatomic pathology have provided key insights into the complex convergence of multiple diseases that commonly contribute to the dementia syndrome and its prodrome in the community setting, and they have suggested some exposures that may modulate disease burden. The tools of clinical pathology, in combination with neuroimaging, have revolutionized the approach to clinical investigation of Alzheimer's disease and are now doing the same with Lewy body disease and vascular brain injury. The tools of anatomic and clinical pathology will continue to contribute to our understanding of these diseases as we advance toward effective interventions for the diseases that commonly cause cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive memory deficits and other cognitive disturbances. Neuropathologically, AD is characterized by the progressive loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons that innervate the hippocampus and cortex and the abnormal extracellular accumulation of amyloid-β and intracellular tau protein. Current research on AD is focused on the mechanisms underlying the abnormal oligomerization, fibrillation, and accumulation of the amyloid-β and tau proteins, mechanisms that may alter the dynamics of this accumulation and on experimental therapeutics approaches aimed at the clearance of the abnormally folded proteins and other potentially neuroprotective interventions. This review will summarize the main areas of investigation in AD and present ways forward for future work.
Rodrigo Medeiros, Meredith A. Chabrier, Frank M. LaFerla
195 - 210
As the number of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) continues to rise, the need for efficacious therapeutics is becoming more and more urgent. Understanding the molecular relationship and interactions between Aβ and tau and their contribution to cognitive decline remain one of the most fundamental and unresolved questions in the AD field. Likewise, elucidating the initial triggers of disease pathology, as well as the impact of various factors such as stress and inflammation on disease progression, are equally important to fully understand this devastating disorder. Here we discuss recent studies that have illuminated the importance of key facilitators of disease progression using the 3xTg-AD and CaM/Tet-DTA mouse models, and suggest viable targets for ameliorating both molecular pathology and cognitive decline.
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