The association of the ε4 allele of apoE with increased risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and with poor clinical outcome after certain acute brain injuries has sparked interest in the neurobiology of apoE. ApoE (-/-) mice provide a tool to investigate the role of apoE in the nervous system in vivo. Since integrity of the basal forebrain cholinergic system is severely compromised in AD, with severity of dysfunction correlating with apoE4 gene dosage, the present study tested the hypothesis that apoE is required to maintain the normal integrity of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs). Histological and biochemical analyses of the septo-hippocampal cholinergic system were performed in apoE (-/-) mice during aging and following injury. Using unbiased quantitative methods, there was little or no evidence for defects in the septo-hippocampal cholinergic system, as assessed by p75(NTR)- immunoreactive neuron number and size in the medial septum, cholinergic fiber density in the hippocampus, and choline acetyltransferase activity in the hippocampus, cortex, and striatum in aged apoE (-/-) mice (up to 24 months of age) as compared to age-matched wild-type mice of the same strain. In addition, cholinergic neuronal survival and size following fimbria-fornix transection in apoE (-/-) mice did not differ from controls. However, following entorhinal cortex lesion, there was persistence of degeneration products in the deafferented hippocampus in apoE (-/-) mice. These data suggest that although apoE is not required for the maintenance of BFCNs in vivo, it may play a role in the clearance of cholesterol-laden neurodegeneration products following brain injury.
- Apolipoprotein E
- Basal forebrain cholinergic neurons
- Entorhinal cortex
- Fimbria- fornix