Synaptic loss is accompanied by an increase in synaptic area in the dentate gyrus of aged human apolipoprotein E4 transgenic mice

Neuroscience. 2000;97(4):685-92. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(00)00065-8.


To investigate the relationship between the three isoforms of apolipoprotein E (E2, E3 and E4) and the integrity of the synaptic circuitry in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, we have estimated the synapse per neuron ratio and mean apposition zone area per synapse at the electron microscope level in the dentate gyrus of apolipoprotein E knockout and human apolipoprotein E transgenic mice aged six to 24months. During ageing, only in human apolipoprotein E4 mice was there a decrease in synapse per neuron ratio, accompanied by an increase in synaptic size. When these mice were compared with human apolipoprotein E2, apolipoprotein E knockout and wild-type mice at old age, they displayed the lowest synapse per neuron ratio, but similar apposition zone area. In contrast, as in our previous study, aged apolipoprotein E knockout mice did not show any sign of synaptic degeneration. The functional consequences of such morphological changes remain to be determined. However, if such age-related loss of synapses occurred in the brain of Alzheimer apolipoprotein E4 patients, they might be additive to pathological processes and could contribute to greater cognitive impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Apolipoproteins E / deficiency
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Dentate Gyrus / growth & development*
  • Dentate Gyrus / pathology
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Synapses / pathology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure


  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Apolipoproteins E