Reversal of apoE4-Driven Brain Pathology and Behavioral Deficits by Bexarotene

The Journal of Neuroscience. 2014 May 21; 34(21):7293-7301.


Apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4), the most prevalent genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), is less lipidated than its corresponding AD-benign form, apoE3, and it has been suggested that the pathological effects of apoE4 are mediated by lipid-related mechanisms. ATP-binding cassette transporters A1 and G1 (ABCA1 and ABCG1, respectively) are the most important apoE-lipidating proteins. The expression of these proteins, as well as that of apoE, is controlled by the transcription regulation retinoid X receptor (RXR)-liver X receptor (LXR) system. In the present study, we investigated the effects of the RXR agonist bexarotene on mRNA and protein levels of apoE, ABCA1, and ABCG1 in young, naive apoE3- and apoE4-targeted replacement mice and assessed the extent to which this reverses the apoE4-driven pathological phenotype. This investigation revealed that bexarotene increases the mRNA and protein levels of ABCA1 and ABCG1 in hippocampal neurons, but has no effect on the corresponding levels of apoE. These findings were associated with reversal of the lipidation deficiency of apoE4 and of the cognitive impairments of apoE4 mice in several tests. Furthermore, bexarotene reversed the apoE4-driven accumulation of Aβ42 and hyperphosphorylated tau in hippocampal neurons, as well as the apoE4-induced reduction in the levels of the presynaptic marker vesicular glutamatergic transporter 1 (VGluT1). In conclusion, the results show that treatment of apoE4 mice with the RXR agonist bexarotene reverses the apoE4-induced cognitive and neuronal impairments in vivo and suggest that this is due to reversal of the lipidation deficiency of apoE4. This puts forward the possibility that RXR activation and increased levels of ABCA1 and ABCG1 could be useful in the treatment of human apoE4 carriers.

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