Pioglitazone improves reversal learning and exerts mixed cerebrovascular effects in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease with combined amyloid-β and cerebrovascular pathology

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 18;8(7):e68612. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068612. Print 2013.


Animal models of Alzheimer's disease (AD) are invaluable in dissecting the pathogenic mechanisms and assessing the efficacy of potential new therapies. Here, we used the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma agonist pioglitazone in an attempt to rescue the pathogenic phenotype in adult (12 months) and aged (>18 months) bitransgenic A/T mice that overexpress a mutated human amyloid precursor protein (APPSwe,Ind) and a constitutively active form of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). A/T mice recapitulate the AD-related cognitive deficits, amyloid beta (Aβ) and cerebrovascular pathologies, as well as the altered metabolic and vascular coupling responses to increased neuronal activity. Pioglitazone normalized neurometabolic and neurovascular coupling responses to sensory stimulation, and reduced cortical astroglial and hippocampal microglial activation in both age groups. Spatial learning and memory deficits in the Morris water maze were not rescued by pioglitazone, but reversal learning was improved in the adult cohort notwithstanding a progressing Aβ pathology. While pioglitazone preserved the constitutive nitric oxide synthesis in the vessel wall, it unexpectedly failed to restore cerebrovascular reactivity in A/T mice and even exacerbated the dilatory deficits. These data demonstrate pioglitazone's efficacy on selective AD hallmarks in a complex AD mouse model of comorbid amyloidosis and cerebrovascular pathology. They further suggest a potential benefit of pioglitazone in managing neuroinflammation, cerebral perfusion and glucose metabolism in AD patients devoid of cerebrovascular pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • PPAR gamma / agonists
  • Pioglitazone
  • Reversal Learning / drug effects*
  • Reversal Learning / physiology
  • Thiazolidinediones / pharmacology*
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • PPAR gamma
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Pioglitazone