The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Partial loss of presenilin impairs age-dependent neuronal survival in the cerebral cortex.

PMID 25429133


Mutations in the presenilin (PSEN1 and PSEN2) genes are linked to familial Alzheimer's disease (AD) and cause loss of its essential function. Complete inactivation of presenilins in excitatory neurons of the adult mouse cerebral cortex results in progressive memory impairment and age-dependent neurodegeneration, recapitulating key features of AD. In this study, we examine the effects of varying presenilin dosage on cortical neuron survival by generating presenilin-1 conditional knock-out (PS1 cKO) mice carrying two, one, or zero copies of the PS2 gene. We found that PS1 cKO;PS2(+/-) mice at 16 months exhibit marked neurodegeneration in the cerebral cortex with ∼17% reduction of cortical volume and neuron number, as well as astrogliosis and microgliosis compared with ∼50% reduction of cortical volume and neuron number in PS1 cKO;PS2(-/-) mice. Moreover, there are more apoptotic neurons labeled by activated caspase-3 immunoreactivity and TUNEL assay in PS1 cKO;PS2(+/-) mice at 16 months, whereas apoptotic neurons are increased in the PS1 cKO;PS2(-/-) cerebral cortex at 4 months. The accumulation of the C-terminal fragments of the amyloid precursor protein is inversely correlated with PS dosage. Interestingly, levels of PS2 are higher in the cerebral cortex of PS1 cKO mice, suggesting a compensatory upregulation that may provide protection against neurodegeneration in these mice. Together, our findings show that partial to complete loss of presenilin activity causes progressively more severe neurodegeneration in the mouse cerebral cortex during aging, suggesting that impaired presenilin function by PSEN mutations may lead to neurodegeneration and dementia in AD.