Plasma apolipoprotein E levels were previously associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), levels of cerebrospinal fluid AD biomarkers, cognition and imaging brain measures. Outside the brain, the liver is the primary source of apoE and liver transplantation studies have demonstrated that liver-derived apoE does not cross the blood–brain-barrier. How hepatic apoE may be implicated in behavioral and cognitive performance is not clear. In the current study, we behaviorally tested FRGN mice with humanized liver harboring the ε3/ε3 genotype (E3-human liver (HL)) and compared their behavioral and cognitive performance with that of age-matched ε3/ε3 targeted replacement (E3-TR) mice, the latter produces human apoE3 throughout the body whereas the E3-HL mice endogenously produce human apoE3 only in the liver. We also compared the liver weights and plasma apoE levels, and assessed whether plasma apoE levels were correlated with behavioral or cognitive measures in both models. E3-HL were more active but performed cognitively worse than E3-TR mice. E3-HL mice moved more in the open field containing objects, showed higher activity levels in the Y maze, showed higher activity levels during the baseline period in the fear conditioning test than E3-TR mice, and swam faster than E3-TR mice during training to locate the visible platform in the water maze. However, E3-HL mice showed reduced spatial memory retention in the water maze and reduced fear learning and contextual and cued fear memory than E3-TR mice. Liver weights were greater in E3-HL than E3-TR mice and sex-dependent only in the latter model. Plasma apoE3 levels were similar to those found in humans and comparable in female and male E3-TR mice but higher in female E3-HL mice. Finally, we found correlations between plasma apoE levels and behavioral and cognitive measures which were predominantly model-dependent. Our study demonstrates mouse-model dependent associations between plasma apoE levels, behavior and cognition in an ‘AD-neutral’ setting and suggests that a humanized liver might be sufficient to induce mouse behavioral and cognitive phenotypes.
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