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Increasing membrane cholesterol of neurons in culture recapitulates Alzheimer’s disease early phenotypes

Publication year 2014
Published in Molecular Neurodegeneration
Authors Catherine Marquer, Jeanne Laine, Luce Dauphinot, Linda Hanbouch, Camille Lemercier-Neuillet, Nathalie Pierrot, K. Bossers, Mickael Le, Fabian Corlier, Caroline Benstaali, Frédéric Saudou, Gopal Thinakaran, Nathalie Cartier, Jean-Noël Octave, Charles Duyckaerts, Marie-Claude Potier

BACKGROUND: It is suspected that excess of brain cholesterol plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Membrane-associated cholesterol was shown to be increased in the brain of individuals with sporadic AD and to correlate with the severity of the disease. We hypothesized that an increase of membrane cholesterol could trigger sporadic AD early phenotypes.

RESULTS: We thus acutely loaded the plasma membrane of cultured neurons with cholesterol to reach the 30% increase observed in AD brains. We found changes in gene expression profiles that are reminiscent of early AD stages. We also observed early AD cellular phenotypes. Indeed we found enlarged and aggregated early endosomes using confocal and electron microscopy after immunocytochemistry. In addition amyloid precursor protein vesicular transport was inhibited in neuronal processes, as seen by live-imaging. Finally transient membrane cholesterol loading lead to significantly increased amyloid-β42 secretion.

CONCLUSIONS: Membrane cholesterol increase in cultured neurons reproduces most early AD changes and could thus be a relevant model for deciphering AD mechanisms and identifying new therapeutic targets.

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