Background: Sepsis, a leading cause for intensive care unit admissions, causes both an acute encephalopathy and chronic brain dysfunction in survivors. A history of sepsis is also a risk factor for future development of dementia symptoms. Similar neuropathologic changes are associated with the cognitive decline of sepsis and Alzheimer's disease (AD), including neuroinflammation, neuronal death, and synaptic loss. Amyloid plaque pathology is the earliest pathological hallmark of AD, appearing 10 to 20 years prior to cognitive decline, and is present in 30% of people over 65. As sepsis is also more common in older adults, we hypothesized that sepsis might exacerbate amyloid plaque deposition and plaque-related injury, promoting the progression of AD-related pathology. Methods: We evaluated whether the brain's response to sepsis modulates AD-related neurodegenerative changes by driving amyloid deposition and neuroinflammation in mice. We induced polymicrobial sepsis by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) in APP/PS1–21 mice, a model of AD-related β-amyloidosis. We performed CLP or sham surgery at plaque onset (2 months of age) and examined pathology 2 months after CLP in surviving mice. Results: Sepsis significantly increased fibrillar amyloid plaque formation in the hippocampus of APP/PS1–21 mice. Sepsis enhanced plaque-related astrocyte activation and complement C4b gene expression in the brain, both of which may play a role in modulating amyloid formation. CLP also caused large scale changes in the gut microbiome of APP/PS1 mice, which have been associated with a pro-amyloidogenic and neuroinflammatory state. Conclusions: Our results suggest that experimental sepsis can exacerbate amyloid plaque deposition and plaque-related inflammation, providing a potential mechanism for increased dementia in older sepsis survivors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105292
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid-beta
  • Complement
  • Microbiome
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Sepsis


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