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Amyloid Precursor Protein Mutation Disrupts Reproductive Experience-Enhanced Normal Cognitive Development in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease


Women experience dramatic changes in hormones, mood and cognition through different periods of their reproductive lives, particularly during pregnancy and giving birth. While limited human studies of early pregnancy and motherhood showed alteration of cognitive functions in later life, researches on rodents showed a persistent improvement of learning and memory performance in females with history of giving birth compared to virgin controls. Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common dementia in elderly, is more prevalent in women than in men. One of the risk factors is related to the sharp reduction of estrogen in aged women. It is unknown whether the history of fertility activity plays any roles in altering risk of AD in females, such as altering cognitive function. Would reproductive experience alter the risk of AD in females? If so, what might be the mechanisms of the change? In this study, we examined the effects of reproductive experience on cognitive function in an AD transgenic mouse model (APP23) and age-matched wild-type non-transgenic control mice (WT). Our data showed an age-dependent effect of reproductive experience on learning and memory activity between breeders (had one or more litters) and non-breeders (virgins). More importantly, our data, for the first time, demonstrated a genotype-dependent effect of parity on cognitive function between APP23 and WT mice. At the age of 12 months, WT breeders outperform non-breeders in spatial working and reference memory while APP23 breeders performed worse in spatial learning and memory than age-matched APP23 non-breeders. These genotype- and age-dependent effects of reproductive activity on cognitions are significantly associated with changes of neuropathology of AD in the APP23 mice, expression of proteins related to synaptic plasticity and cognitive functions in the brain.

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This work was supported by grants from the Alzheimer's Association IIRG-07-59510, American Health Assistance Foundation Grant G2006-118, NIH R01AG032441, NIH R01AG025888. We thank Mr. Alex Bishop for editing and proofreading the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rena Li.

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Cui, J., Jothishankar, B., He, P. et al. Amyloid Precursor Protein Mutation Disrupts Reproductive Experience-Enhanced Normal Cognitive Development in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease. Mol Neurobiol 49, 103–112 (2014).

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  • Fertility
  • Cognition
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid
  • Synaptic proteins