Brain structure & function

Microglial response to Alzheimer's disease is differentially modulated by voluntary wheel running and enriched environments.

PMID 24374506


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an untreatable neurodegenerative disease that deteriorates memory. Increased physical/cognitive activity reduces dementia risk by promoting neuronal and glial response. Although few studies have investigated microglial response in wild-type rodents following exposure to physical/cognitive stimulation, environmental-induced changes of microglia response to AD have been neglected. We investigated effects of running (RUN) and enriched (ENR) environments on numerical density (N v, #/mm(3)) and morphology of microglia in a triple transgenic (3×Tg-AD) mouse model of AD that closely mimics AD pathology in humans. We used immunohistochemical approach to characterise microglial domain by measuring their overall cell surface, volume and somata volume. 3×Tg-AD mice housed in standard control (STD) environment showed significant increase in microglial N v (11.7xa0%) in CA1 stratum lacunosum moleculare (S.Mol) of the hippocampus at 12xa0months compared to non-transgenic (non-Tg) animals. Exposure to combined RUN and ENR environments prevented an increase in microglial N v in 3×Tg-AD and reduced microglial numbers to non-Tg control levels. Interestingly, 3×Tg-AD mice housed solely in ENR environment displayed significant decrease in microglial N v in CA1 subfield (9.3xa0% decrease), stratum oriens (11.5xa0% decrease) and S.Mol (7.6xa0% decrease) of the hippocampus compared to 3×Tg-AD mice housed in STD environment. Morphological analysis revealed microglial hypertrophy due to pronounced increase in microglia surface, volume and somata volume (61, 78 and 41xa0%) in 3×Tg-AD mice housed in RUN (but not in ENR) compared to STD environment. These results indicate that exposure to RUN and ENR environments have differential effects on microglial density and activation-associated changes in microglial morphology.