Complete rescue of cerebrovascular function in aged Alzheimer's disease transgenic mice by antioxidants and pioglitazone, a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma agonist

J Neurosci. 2008 Sep 10;28(37):9287-96. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3348-08.2008.


Accumulating evidence suggests that cerebrovascular dysfunction is an important factor in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Using aged ( approximately 16 months) amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic mice that exhibit increased production of the amyloid-beta (Abeta) peptide and severe cerebrovascular and memory deficits, we examined the capacity of in vivo treatments with the antioxidants N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) and tempol, or the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma agonist pioglitazone to rescue cerebrovascular function and selected markers of AD neuropathology. Additionally, we tested the ability of pioglitazone to normalize the impaired increases in cerebral blood flow (CBF) and glucose uptake (CGU) induced by whisker stimulation, and to reverse spatial memory deficits in the Morris water maze. All compounds fully restored cerebrovascular reactivity of isolated cerebral arteries concomitantly with changes in proteins regulating oxidative stress, without reducing brain Abeta levels or Abeta plaque load. Pioglitazone, but not NAC, significantly attenuated astroglial activation and improved, albeit nonsignificantly, the reduced cortical cholinergic innervation. Furthermore, pioglitazone completely normalized the CBF and CGU responses to increased neuronal activity, but it failed to improve spatial memory. Our results are the first to demonstrate that late pharmacological intervention with pioglitazone not only overcomes cerebrovascular dysfunction and altered neurometabolic coupling in aged APP mice, but also counteracts cerebral oxidative stress, glial activation, and, partly, cholinergic denervation. Although early or combined therapy may be warranted to improve cognition, these findings unequivocally point to pioglitazone as a most promising strategy for restoring cerebrovascular function and counteracting several AD markers detrimental to neuronal function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use*
  • Aging*
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / genetics
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / etiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • PPAR gamma / agonists
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Pioglitazone
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Antioxidants
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • PPAR gamma
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • superoxide dismutase 2
  • Acetylcholine
  • Acetylcysteine
  • Pioglitazone