Environmental enrichment exacerbates amyloid plaque formation in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer disease

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2003 Dec;62(12):1220-7. doi: 10.1093/jnen/62.12.1220.


Epidemiological studies of Alzheimer patients from a wide variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have identified education and occupation as environmental factors that can affect the risk of developing disease. A model of environmental manipulation in rodents uses enriched housing to provide cognitive and social stimulation. Previous studies have established elevations in synaptic number and function in rodents housed under enriched conditions. Recent experiments in hippocampal cultures have demonstrated that synaptic activity can influence the processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP). Here we examined whether changes in synaptic activity brought about by enriched housing might also influence the deposition of amyloid plaques in vivo using a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer disease (AD). Mice co-expressing mutant APP and presenilin 1 (PS1) were housed in either enriched or standard cages from 2 months of age and then killed for pathological evaluation several months later. We find that, as compared to littermates housed in standard cages, the enriched APP/PS1 transgenic mice develop a higher amyloid burden with commensurate increases in aggregated and total A beta. These results suggest that A beta deposition can be exacerbated by the neuronal changes associated with enrichment, and demonstrate a substantial, albeit paradoxical, environmental influence on the progression of pathology in a mouse model of AD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control*
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Plaque, Amyloid / pathology*