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Immunotherapy alleviates amyloid-associated synaptic pathology in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model

Brain. 2014 Oct 3. pii: awu280. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Dorostkar MM, Burgold S, Filser S, Barghorn S, Schmidt B, Anumala UR, Hillen H, Herms J.
Publication Date: 2014


Cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease is attributed to loss of functional synapses, most likely caused by synaptotoxic, oligomeric forms of amyloid-β. Many treatment options aim at reducing amyloid-β levels in the brain, either by decreasing its production or by increasing its clearance. We quantified the effects of immunotherapy directed against oligomeric amyloid-β in Tg2576 mice, a mouse model of familial Alzheimer's disease. Treatment of 12-month-old mice with oligomer-specific (A-887755) or conformation-unspecific (6G1) antibodies for 8 weeks did not affect fibrillar plaque density or growth. We also quantified densities of DLG4 (previously known as PSD95) expressing post-synapses and synapsin expressing presynapses immunohistochemically. We found that both pre- and post-synapses were strongly reduced in the vicinity of plaques, whereas distant from plaques, in the cortex and hippocampal CA1 field, only post-synapses were reduced. Immunotherapy alleviated this synapse loss. Synapse loss was completely abolished distant from plaques, whereas it was only attenuated in the vicinity of plaques. These results suggest that fibrillar plaques may act as reservoirs for synaptotoxic, oligomeric amyloid-β and that sequestering oligomers suffices to counteract synaptic pathology. Therefore, cognitive function may be improved by immunotherapy even when the load of fibrillar amyloid remains unchanged.

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