Apolipoprotein E (apoE) mediates the redistribution of lipids among cells and is expressed at highest levels in brain and liver. Human apoE exists in three major isoforms encoded by distinct alleles (ε2, ε3, and ε4). Compared with APOE ε2 and ε3, APOE ε4 increases the risk of cognitive impairments, lowers the age of onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and decreases the response to AD treatments. Besides age, inheritance of the APOE ε4 allele is the most important known risk factor for the development of sporadic AD, the most common form of this illness. Although numerous hypotheses have been advanced, it remains unclear how APOE ε4 might affect cognition and increase AD risk. To assess the effects of distinct human apoE isoforms on the brain, we have used the neuron-specific enolase (NSE) promoter to express human apoE3 or apoE4 at similar levels in neurons of transgenic mice lacking endogenous mouse apoE. Compared with NSE-apoE3 mice and wild-type controls, NSE-apoE4 mice showed impairments in learning a water maze task and in vertical exploratory behavior that increased with age and were seen primarily in females. These findings demonstrate that human apoE isoforms have differential effects on brain function in vivo and that the susceptibility to apoE4-induced deficits is critically influenced by age and gender. These results could be pertinent to cognitive impairments observed in human APOE ε4 carriers. NSE-apoE mice and similar models may facilitate the preclinical assessment of treatments for apoE-related cognitive deficits.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Sep 1 1998|
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