Background: One of the key pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease (AD) is the accumulation of the amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide into amyloid plaques. The apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene is the strongest genetic risk factor for late-onset AD and has been shown to influence the accumulation of Aβ in the brain in an isoform-dependent manner. ApoE can be produced by different cell types in the brain, with astrocytes being the largest producer of apoE, although reactive microglia also express high levels of apoE. While studies have shown that altering apoE levels in the brain can influence the development of Aβ plaque pathology, it is not fully known how apoE produced by specific cell types, such as astrocytes, contributes to amyloid pathology. Methods: We utilized APOE knock-in mice capable of having APOE selectively removed from astrocytes in a tamoxifen-inducible manner and crossed them with the APP/PS1-21 mouse model of amyloidosis. We analyzed the changes to Aβ plaque levels and assessed the impact on cellular responses to Aβ plaques when astrocytic APOE is removed. Results: Tamoxifen administration was capable of strongly reducing apoE levels in the brain by markedly reducing astrocyte apoE, while microglial apoE expression remained. Reduction of astrocytic apoE3 and apoE4 led to a large decrease in Aβ plaque deposition and less compact plaques. While overall Iba1+ microglia were unchanged in the cortex after reducing astrocyte apoE, the expression of the disease-associated microglial markers Clec7a and apoE were lower around amyloid plaques, indicating decreased microglial activation. Additionally, astrocyte GFAP levels are unchanged around amyloid plaques, but overall GFAP levels are reduced in the cortex of female apoE4 mice after a reduction in astrocytic apoE. Finally, while the amount of neuritic dystrophy around remaining individual plaques was increased with the removal of astrocytic apoE, the overall amount of cortical amyloid-associated neuritic dystrophy was significantly decreased. Conclusion: This study reveals an important role of astrocytic apoE3 and apoE4 on the deposition and accumulation of Aβ plaques as well as on certain Aβ-associated downstream effects.
- Alzheimer disease
- Apolipoprotein E