The role of APP and APLP for synaptic transmission, plasticity, and network function: lessons from genetic mouse models
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- Korte, M., Herrmann, U., Zhang, X. et al. Exp Brain Res (2012) 217: 435. doi:10.1007/s00221-011-2894-6
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APP, APLP1, and APLP2 form a family of mammalian membrane proteins with unknown function. APP, however, plays a key role in the molecular pathology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), indicating that it is somehow involved in synaptic transmission, synaptic plasticity, memory formation, and maintenance of neurons. At present, most of our knowledge about the function of APP comes from consequences of AD-related mutations. The native role of APP, and even more of APLP1/2, remains largely unknown. New genetic knockout and knockin models involving several members of the APP/APLP family may yield better insight into the synaptic and systemic functions of these proteins. Here, we summarize recent results from such transgenic animals with special emphasis on synaptic plasticity and coherent patterns of memory-related network activity in the hippocampus. Data from APP knockout mice suggest that this protein is needed for the expression of long-term potentiation (LTP) in aged, but not in juvenile mice. The missing function can be rescued by expressing part of the protein, as well as by blocking inhibition. Double knockout mice lacking APP and APLP2 die shortly after birth indicating that different members of the APP/APLP family can mutually compensate for genetic ablation of single proteins. Recent techniques allow for analysis of tissue with combined defects, e.g., by expressing only part of APP in APLP2 knockout mice or by growing stem cells with multiple deletions on normal slice cultures. Data from these experiments confirm that APP and APLP2 do indeed play an important role in synaptic plasticity. Much less is known about the role of APP/APLP at the network level. Coherent patterns of activity like hippocampal network oscillations are believed to support formation and consolidation of memory. Analysis of such activity patterns in tissue from mice with altered expression of APP/APLP has just started and may shed further light on the importance of these proteins for cognitive functions.