Association of cerebral microvascular dysfunction and white matter injury in Alzheimer’s disease

Zsolt Bagi, Christopher D. Kroenke, Katie Anne Fopiano, Yanna Tian, Jessica A. Filosa, Larry S. Sherman, Eric B. Larson, C. Dirk Keene, Kiera Degener O’Brien, Philip A. Adeniyi, Stephen A. Back

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) often have cerebral white matter (WM) hyperintensities on MRI and microinfarcts of presumed microvascular origin pathologically. Here, we determined if vasodilator dysfunction of WM-penetrating arterioles is associated with pathologically defined WM injury and disturbances in quantitative MRI-defined WM integrity in patients with mixed microvascular and AD pathology. We analyzed tissues from 28 serially collected human brains from research donors diagnosed with varying degrees of AD neuropathologic change (ADNC) with or without cerebral microinfarcts (mVBI). WM-penetrating and pial surface arteriolar responses to the endothelium-dependent agonist bradykinin were quantified ex vivo with videomicroscopy. Vascular endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and NAD(P)H-oxidase (Nox1, 2 and 4 isoforms) expression were measured with quantitative PCR. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-labeled astrocytes were quantified by unbiased stereological approaches in regions adjacent to the sites of WM-penetrating vessel collection. Post-mortem diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to measure mean apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and fractional anisotropy (FA), quantitative indices of WM integrity. In contrast to pial surface arterioles, white matter-penetrating arterioles from donors diagnosed with high ADNC and mVBI exhibited a significantly reduced dilation in response to bradykinin when compared to the other groups. Expression of eNOS was reduced, whereas Nox1 expression was increased in WM arterioles in AD and mVBI cases. WM astrocyte density was increased in AD and mVBI, which correlated with a reduced vasodilation in WM arterioles. Moreover, in cases with low ADNC, bradykinin-induced WM arteriole dilation correlated with lower ADC and higher FA values. Comorbid ADNC and mVBI appear to synergistically interact to selectively impair bradykinin-induced vasodilation in WM-penetrating arterioles, which may be related to reduced nitric oxide- and excess reactive oxygen species-mediated vascular endothelial dysfunction. WM arteriole vasodilator dysfunction is associated with WM injury, as supported by reactive astrogliosis and MRI-defined disrupted WM microstructural integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Astrocyte
  • Dilation
  • MRI
  • Microvascular
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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