Alzheimer's disease is a progressively dementing illness characterized by the extracellular accumulation and deposition of β-amyloid. Early onset Alzheimer's disease is linked to mutations in three genes, all of which lead to increased β-amyloid production. Inflammatory changes and gliosis may also play a role in the disease process, but the importance of these reactive events remains unclear. We recently reported that chronic cortical gliosis in heterotopic fetal rat cortical transplants is associated with significant changes in the levels of some of the proteins implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Because rodent β-amyloid does not form extracellular amyloid deposits, we have now extended this model of chronic cortical gliosis to transgenic mice expressing the Swedish mutant form of human amyloid precursor protein. In addition, apolipoprotein E knockout mice were used to elucidate the role of this protein in reactive gliosis. The expression of mutant and murine proteins was assayed 6 or 10 months after transplantation using immunohistochemical and western blot methods. Heterotopic transplantation of fetal cortex onto the midbrain of neonatal mice consistently resulted in reactive gliosis, independent of apolipoprotein E status. In contrast, in homotopic cortex-to-cortex grafts there was little alteration in glial reactivity, a result similar to that obtained previously in rats. By 10 months post-transplantation the level of presenilin-1 expression was lower in heterotopic grafts than in host cortex and there was increased expression of transgenic amyloid precursor protein, but only in the gliotic cortex-to-midbrain grafts. Most importantly, increased levels of β-amyloid, and particularly its precursor, C-99, were selectively found in these heterotopic transplants. Our results show that chronic gliosis is associated with altered processing of the amyloid precursor protein in vivo and thus may initiate or exacerbate pathological changes associated with Alzheimer's disease.
- Apolipoprotein E
- Transgenic mice