Recent findings suggest that hypercholesterolemia may contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-like dementia but the underlying mechanisms remain unknown. In this study, we evaluated the cognitive performance in rodent models of hypercholesterolemia in relation to neuroinflammatory changes and amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing, the two key parameters of AD pathogenesis. Groups of normal C57BL/6 and low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR)-deficient mice were fed a high fat/cholesterol diet for an 8-week period and tested for memory in a radial arm maze. It was found that the C57BL/6 mice receiving a high fat diet were deficient in handling an increasing working memory (WM) load compared to counterparts receiving a control diet while the hypercholesterolemic LDLR−/− mice showed impaired WM regardless of diet. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed the presence of activated microglia and astrocytes in the hippocampi from high fat-fed C57BL/6 mice and LDLR−/− mice. Consistent with a neuroinflammatory response, the hyperlipidemic mice showed increased expression of cytokines/mediators including TNFα, IL-1β, IL-6, NOS2 and COX2. There was also an induced expression of the key APP processing enzyme i.e., BACE1 in both high fat/cholesterol-fed C57BL/6 and LDLR−/− mice accompanied by an increased generation of C-terminal fragments (CTFs) of APP. Although ELISA for Aβ failed to record significant changes in the non-transgenic mice, a 3-fold increase in Aβ-40 accumulation was apparent in a strain of transgenic mice expressing wt hAPP on high fat/cholesterol diet. The findings link hypercholesterolemia with cognitive dysfunction potentially mediated by increased neuroinflammation and APP processing in a non-transgenic mouse model.
Diets rich in cholesterol and/or saturated fats have been shown to be detrimental to cognitive performance. Therefore, we fed a cholesterol (2%) and saturated fat (hydrogenated coconut oil, Sat Fat 10%) diet to 16-month old rats for 8 weeks to explore the effects on the working memory performance of middle-aged rats. Lipid profiles revealed elevated plasma triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL, and LDL for the Sat-Fat group as compared to an iso-caloric control diet (12% soybean oil). Weight gain and food consumption were similar in both groups. Sat-Fat treated rats committed more working memory errors in the water radial arm maze, especially at higher memory loads. Cholesterol, amyloid-β peptide of 40 (Aβ40) or 42 (Aβ42) residues, and nerve growth factor in cortical regions was unaffected, but hippocampal Map-2 staining was reduced in rats fed a SatFat diet, indicating a loss of dendritic integrity. Map-2 reduction correlated with memory errors. Microglial activation, indicating inflammation and/or gliosis, was also observed in the hippocampus of Sat-Fat fed rats. These data suggest that saturated fat, hydrogenated fat and cholesterol can profoundly impair memory and hippocampal morphology.
While some research has indicated that ovarian hormone therapy (HT) benefits memory and decreases risk of Alzheimer's disease in menopausal women, several newer studies have shown null or detrimental effects. Despite the null and negative cognitive findings, the numerous studies showing positive effects beg the question of what factors determine whether HT acts as a neuroprotectant or a risk factor for brain functioning. Using middle-aged female rats, we directly compared six HTs. We evaluated the effects of ovariectomy, tonic low-dose, tonic high-dose and biweekly cyclic estradiol treatment, as well as whether progesterone altered the effectiveness of any one of these oestrogen regimens. Animals were tested on spatial and complex cued (intramaze patterns) reference memory using variants of the Morris maze. The tonic low-dose and cyclic estradiol treatments improved spatial performance, while the addition of progesterone reversed these beneficial cognitive effects of estradiol. Additionally, all groups learned to locate the platform on the cued task; however, an egocentric circling strategy was used with sham ovary-intact and hormone-replacement groups showing the most efficient search strategy. Although the question of memory retention 8 weeks after the first cognitive assessment was addressed, a large number of animals died between the first and second test, rendering the retest uninterpretable for many group comparisons. Specifically, both doses of tonic estradiol dramatically increased the number of deaths during the 17-week experiment, while the cyclic estradiol treatment did not. Progesterone decreased the number of deaths due to tonic estradiol treatment. Our findings suggest that the dose of estradiol replacement as well as the presence of progesterone influences the cognitive outcome of estradiol treatment. Further, there appears to be a dissociation between HT effects on cognition and mortality rates.
Estrus females display heightened sensitivity to the motivational and/or stimulant effects of cocaine, suggesting that hormonal state modulates drug craving and propensity for drug relapse in cocaine addicts.
In women, medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) is the most commonly used progestin component of HT. In vitro, MPA negatively impacts markers of neuronal health and exacerbates experimentally-induced neurotoxicity. There is in vitro evidence that these factors are driven by GABAergic and neurotrophic systems. Whether these effects translate to a negative impact on brain function has not been tested in vivo, clinically or preclinically. Here we evaluate the mnemonic and neurobiological effects of MPA in the surgically menopausal rat. Aged ovariectomized (OVX) rats were given subcutaneous vehicle, natural progesterone, low-dose MPA or high-dose MPA. Multiple cognitive domains were analyzed via the water radial-arm maze (WRAM), and Morris maze (MM). Cognitive brain regions were assayed for changes in the GABAergic system by evaluating GAD protein, the synthesizing enzyme for GABA, and neurotrophins. On the WRAM, both progestin types impaired learning. Further, high-dose MPA impaired delayed memory retention on the WRAM, and exacerbated overnight forgetting on the MM. While neurotrophins were not affected by progesterone or MPA treatment, both progestin types altered GAD levels. MPA significantly and progesterone marginally decreased GAD levels in the hippocampus, and both MPA and progesterone significantly increased GAD levels in the entorhinal cortex. These findings suggest that MPA, the most commonly used progestin in HT, is detrimental to learning and two types of memory, and modulates the GABAergic system in cognitive brain regions, in aged menopausal rats. These findings, combined with in vitro evidence that MPA is detrimental to neuronal health, indicates that MPA has negative effects for brain health and function.
M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) represent a viable target for treatment of multiple disorders of the central nervous system (CNS) including Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. The recent discovery of highly selective allosteric agonists of M1 receptors has provided a major breakthrough in developing a viable approach for discovery of novel therapeutic agents that target these receptors. Here, we describe the characterization of two novel M1 allosteric agonists VU0357017 and VU0364572 that display profound differences in their efficacy in activating M1 coupling to different signaling pathways including Ca++ and β-arrestin responses. Interestingly, the ability of these agents to differentially activate coupling of M1 to specific signaling pathways leads to selective actions on some but not all M1-mediated responses in brain circuits. These novel M1 allosteric agonists induced robust electrophysiological effects in rat hippocampal slices but showed lower efficacy in striatum and no measureable effects on M1-mediated responses in medial prefrontal cortical pyramidal cells in mice. Consistent with these actions, both M1 agonists enhanced acquisition of hippocampal-dependent cognitive function but did not reverse amphetamine-induced hyperlocomotion in rats. Together, these data reveal that M1 allosteric agonists can differentially regulate coupling of M1 to different signaling pathways and this can dramatically alter the actions of these compounds on specific brain circuits important for learning and memory and psychosis.
Many neurological and psychiatric maladies originate from the deprivation of the human brain from estrogens. However, current hormone therapies cannot be used safely to treat these conditions commonly associated with menopause because of detrimental side-effects in the periphery. The latter also prevents the use of the hormone for neuroprotection. Here we show that a small-molecule bioprecursor prodrug, 10β,17β-dihydroxyestra-1,4-dien-3-one (DHED), converts to 17β-estradiol in the brain after systemic administration, but remains inert in the rest of the body. The localized and rapid formation of estrogen from the prodrug was revealed by a series of in vivo bioanalytical assays and through in vivo imaging in rodents. DHED treatment efficiently alleviated symptoms originated from brain estrogen deficiency in animal models of surgical menopause and provided neuroprotection in a rat stroke model. Concomitantly, we determined that 17β-estradiol formed in the brain from DHED elicited changes in gene expression and neuronal morphology identical to those obtained after direct 17β-estradiol treatment. Altogether, complementary functional and mechanistic data show that our approach is highly relevant therapeutically, because administration of the prodrug selectively produces estrogen in the brain independently from the route of administration and treatment regimen. Therefore, peripheral responses associated with the use of systemic estrogens, such as stimulation of the uterus and estrogen-responsive tumor growth, were absent. Collectively, our brain-selective prodrug approach may safely provide estrogen neuroprotection and medicate neurological and psychiatric symptoms developing from estrogen deficiency, particularly those encountered after surgical menopause, without the adverse side-effects of current hormone therapies.
The current study investigated whether, for spatial reference memory, age impacts (1) sensitivity to surgical ovarian hormone loss (Ovx), (2) response to estradiol therapy (ET), and (3) the relation between circulating estradiol levels and memory scores in ovary-intact sham and Ovx plus ET rats. Young, middle-aged and aged Fischer-344 rats received sham, Ovx or Ovx plus ET treatments, and were then tested on the Morris maze. After the last test trial, a probe trial was given whereby the platform was removed. Circulating estradiol levels were then determined and correlated with performance. In Study 1, Ovx facilitated learning on day one, but impaired performance after day one, in young rats. Ovx did not influence performance in middle-aged rats. In young and middle-aged Ovx rats, ET enhanced performance with higher exogenous estradiol levels correlating with better performance during testing and the probe trial. There was no relationship between endogenous estradiol levels and performance in sham young or middle-aged rats. Study 2 showed that, like middle-aged rats, aged rats were not impacted by Ovx. Further, for aged Ovx rats, the ET regimen that was beneficial at earlier ages was no longer effective during test trials, and had only minor benefits for platform localization as assessed by the probe trial. Collectively, the findings suggest that the effects of Ovx as well as responsivity to the currently utilized ET regimen changes with age. Further, there appears to be a distinction between sensitivity to Ovx and responsiveness to ET after Ovx for spatial reference memory performance.
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