Amyloid-β and tau pathology of Alzheimer's disease induced by diabetes in a rabbit animal model

J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;32(2):291-305. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2012-120571.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the major age-dependent disease of the brain, but what instigates late-onset AD is not yet clear. Epidemiological, animal model, and cell biology findings suggest links between AD and diabetes. Although AD pathology is accelerated by diabetes in mice engineered to accumulate human-sequence amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides, they do not adequately model non-inherited AD. We investigated AD-type pathology induced solely by diabetes in genetically unmodified rabbits which generate human-sequence Aβ peptides. After 15 weeks, alloxan-treated diabetic rabbits with expected high blood glucose showed ~5-fold increase in Aβ40/Aβ42 in cortex and hippocampus, and significantly, generated Aβ-derived assemblies found in human AD. Deposits of these putative pathogenic toxins were detected by Aβ/Aβ oligomer antibodies in brain parenchyma and surrounding vasculature, also co-localizing with markedly elevated levels of RAGE. Soluble brain extracts showed diabetes-induced buildup of Aβ oligomers on dot-blots. Phospho-tau also was clearly elevated, overlapping with βIII-tubulin along neuronal tracts. Indications of retina involvement in AD led to examination of AD-type pathology in diabetic retinas and showed Aβ accumulation in ganglion and inner nuclear cell layers using Aβ/oligomer antibodies, and RAGE again was elevated. Our study identifies emergence of AD pathology in brain and retina as a major consequence of diabetes; implicating dysfunctional insulin signaling in late-onset AD, and a potential relationship between Aβ-derived neurotoxins and retinal degeneration in aging and diabetes, as well as AD. AD-type pathology demonstrated in genetically unmodified rabbits calls attention to the considerable potential of the model for investigation of AD pathogenesis, diagnostics, and therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retina / pathology
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • tau Proteins