The physiological interrelationships between cognitive impairments, neurotransmitter loss, amyloid processing and energy metabolism changes in AD, cholinergic dementia and Down's syndrome are largely unknown to date. This report contains novel studies into the association between cognitive function and cerebral metabolism after long-term selective CNS cholinergic neuronal and synaptic loss in a rodent model. We measured local cerebral rates of glucose utilization ((14)C-2-deoxyglucose) throughout the brains of awake rats 4.5 months after bilateral intraventricular injections of a cholinotoxic antibody directed against the low-affinity NGF receptor (p75 NGF) associated with cholinergic neurons (192 IgG-saporin). Permanent cholinergic synapse loss was demonstrated by [(3)H]-vesamicol in vitro autoradiography defining presynaptic vesicular acetylcholine (ACh) transport sites. While other metabolic studies have defined acute and transient glucose use changes after relatively nonspecific lesions of anatomical regions containing cholinergic neurons, our results show sustained reductions in glucose utilization in brain regions impacted by cholinergic synapse loss, including frontal cortical and hippocampal regions, relative to glucose use levels in control rats. In the same animals, impaired cognitive spatial performance in a Morris water maze was correlated with reduced glucose use rates in the cortex and hippocampus at this time point, which is consistent with increased postmortem cortical and hippocampal amyloid precursor protein (APP) levels (45, 46). These results are consistent with the view of cholinergic influence over metabolism, APP processing, and cognition in the cortex and hippocampus.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.