Background: The identification of early mechanisms underlying Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and associated biomarkers could advance development of new therapies and improve monitoring and predicting of AD progression. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been suggested to underlie AD pathophysiology, however, no comprehensive study exists that evaluates the effect of different familial AD (FAD) mutations on mitochondrial function, dynamics, and brain energetics.
Methods and findings: We characterized early mitochondrial dysfunction and metabolomic signatures of energetic stress in three commonly used transgenic mouse models of FAD. Assessment of mitochondrial motility, distribution, dynamics, morphology, and metabolomic profiling revealed the specific effect of each FAD mutation on the development of mitochondrial stress and dysfunction. Inhibition of mitochondrial trafficking was characteristic for embryonic neurons from mice expressing mutant human presenilin 1, PS1(M146L) and the double mutation of human amyloid precursor protein APP(Tg2576) and PS1(M146L) contributing to the increased susceptibility of neurons to excitotoxic cell death. Significant changes in mitochondrial morphology were detected in APP and APP/PS1 mice. All three FAD models demonstrated a loss of the integrity of synaptic mitochondria and energy production. Metabolomic profiling revealed mutation-specific changes in the levels of metabolites reflecting altered energy metabolism and mitochondrial dysfunction in brains of FAD mice. Metabolic biomarkers adequately reflected gender differences similar to that reported for AD patients and correlated well with the biomarkers currently used for diagnosis in humans.
Conclusions: Mutation-specific alterations in mitochondrial dynamics, morphology and function in FAD mice occurred prior to the onset of memory and neurological phenotype and before the formation of amyloid deposits. Metabolomic signatures of mitochondrial stress and altered energy metabolism indicated alterations in nucleotide, Krebs cycle, energy transfer, carbohydrate, neurotransmitter, and amino acid metabolic pathways. Mitochondrial dysfunction, therefore, is an underlying event in AD progression, and FAD mouse models provide valuable tools to study early molecular mechanisms implicated in AD.