Synaptic changes in the dentate gyrus of APP/PS1 transgenic mice revealed by electron microscopy

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2013 May;72(5):386-95. doi: 10.1097/NEN.0b013e31828d41ec.


Numerous studies have reported widespread synaptic dysfunction or loss in early stages of both Alzheimer disease (AD) patients and animal models; it is widely accepted that synapse loss is the major structural correlate of cognitive dysfunction. Elucidation of the changes that may affect synapses is crucial for understanding the pathogenic mechanisms underlying AD, but ultrastructural preservation of human postmortem brain tissue is often poor, and classical methods for quantification of synapses have significant technical limitations. We previously observed changes in dendritic spines in plaque-free regions of the neuropil of the dentate gyrus of double-transgenic APP/PS1 (amyloid precursor protein/presenilin 1) model mice by light microscopy. Here, we used electron microscopy to examine possible synaptic alterations in this region. We used standard stereologic techniques to determine numbers of synapses per volume. We were able to reconstruct and analyze thousands of synapses and their 3-dimensional characteristics using a focused ion beam/scanning electron microscope and 3-dimensional reconstruction software (EspINA), which performs semiautomated segmentation of synapses. Our results show that both numbers of synapses per volume and synaptic morphology are affected in plaque-free regions of APP/PS1 mice. Therefore, changes in the number and morphology of synapses seem to be widespread alterations in this animal model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / genetics*
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Dentate Gyrus / pathology*
  • Dentate Gyrus / ultrastructure*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Plaque, Amyloid / genetics
  • Plaque, Amyloid / pathology
  • Plaque, Amyloid / ultrastructure
  • Presenilin-1 / genetics*
  • Presenilin-1 / ultrastructure
  • Random Allocation
  • Synapses / genetics
  • Synapses / pathology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Presenilin-1