The human apolipoprotein ε4 allele (APOE4) has been implicated as one of the strongest genetic risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and in influencing normal cognitive functioning. Previous studies have demonstrated that mice expressing human apoE4 display deficits in behavioral and neurophysiological outcomes compared to those with apoE3. Ovarian hormones have also been shown to be important in modulating synaptic processes underlying cognitive function, yet little is known about how their effects are influenced by apoE. In the current study, female adult human APOE targeted replacement (TR) mice were utilized to examine the effects of human APOE genotype and long-term ovarian hormone loss on synaptic plasticity in limbic regions by measuring dendritic spine density and electrophysiological function. No significant genotype differences were observed on any outcomes within intact mice. However, there was a significant main effect of genotype on total spine density in apical dendrites in the hippocampus, with post-hoc t-tests revealing a significant reduction in spine density in apoE3 ovariectomized (OVX) mice compared to sham operated mice. There was also a significant main effect of OVX on the magnitude of LTP, with post-hoc t-tests revealing a decrease in apoE3 OVX mice relative to sham. In contrast, apoE4 OVX mice showed increased synaptic activity relative to sham. In the lateral amygdala, there was a significant increase in total spine density in apoE4 OVX mice relative to sham. This increase in spine density was consistent with a significant increase in spontaneous excitatory activity in apoE4 OVX mice. These findings suggest that ovarian hormones differentially modulate synaptic integrity in an apoE-dependent manner within brain regions that are susceptible to neurophysiological dysfunction associated with AD.
Klein RC, Saini S, Risher M-L, Acheson SK, Fleming RL, Sexton HG, et al. (2014) Regional-Specific Effects of Ovarian Hormone Loss on Synaptic Plasticity in Adult Human APOE Targeted Replacement Mice. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94071. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0094071