, Volume 216, Issue 3, pp 227-237,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 16 Mar 2011

Age-related changes of neuron numbers in the frontal cortex of a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

Abstract

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by amyloid plaque accumulation, intracellular tangles and neuronal loss in selective brain regions. The frontal cortex, important for executive functioning, is one of the regions that are affected. Here, we investigated the neurodegenerative effects of mutant human amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilin 1 (PS1) on frontal cortex neurons in APP/PS1KI mice, a transgenic mouse model of AD, expressing two mutations in the human APP, as well as two human PS1 mutations knocked-in into the mouse PS1 gene in a homozygous (ho) manner. Although the hippocampus is significantly affected in these mice, very little is known about the effects of these mutations on selective neuronal populations and plaque load in the frontal cortex. In this study, cytoarchitectural changes were characterized using high precision design-based stereology to evaluate plaque load, total neuron numbers, as well as total numbers of parvalbumin- (PV) and calretinin- (CR) immunoreactive (ir) neurons in the frontal cortex of 2- and 10-month-old APP/PS1KI mice. The frontal cortex was divided into two subfields: layers II–IV and layers V–VI, the latter of which showed substantially more extracellular amyloid-beta aggregates. We found a 34% neuron loss in layers V–VI in the frontal cortex of 10-month-old APP/PS1KI mice compared to 2-month-old, while there was no change in PV- and CR-ir neurons in these mice. In addition, the plaque load in layers V–VI of 10-month-old APP/PS1KI mice was only 11% and did not fully account for the extent of neuronal loss. Interestingly, an increase was found in the total number of PV-ir neurons in all frontal cortical layers of single transgenic APP mice and in layers II–IV of single transgenic PS1ho mice between 2 and 10 months of age. In conclusion, the APP/PS1KI mice provide novel insights into the regional selective vulnerability in the frontal cortex during AD that, together with previous findings in the hippocampus, are remarkably similar to the human situation.

The authors Harry W. M. Steinbusch, Paul J. Lucassen and Christoph Schmitz have equally contributed to the work.