Impact of the apolipoprotein E polymorphism, age and sex on neurogenesis in mice: pathophysiological relevance for Alzheimer's disease?

Brain Res. 2014 Jan 13:1542:32-40. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.10.003. Epub 2013 Oct 16.


Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) is found in three different forms in humans (ApoE2, ApoE3 and ApoE4), and ApoE polymorphism is recognized as a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). ApoE is involved in lipid and cholesterol transport, cell repair, and amyloid-β deposition and certain studies suggest potential implications in neurogenesis. In this regard, we investigated the possible impact of the three different human ApoE isoforms on neurogenesis. We used ApoE knock-in mice of different ages and sex, and quantified newborn cells in the hippocampus by flow cytometry. Young adult ApoE4 mice (10-12 week-old) from both sexes displayed reduced neurogenesis compared with wild-types and the other genotypes. In addition, young adult ApoE2 female mice showed improved hippocampal progenitor cell proliferation. In older mice (1 year), hippocampal neurogenesis was globally decreased, particularly in females, and the difference between ApoE4 and the other genotypes observed in young animals disappeared for the two sexes, except for aged ApoE3 females. Indeed, a surprising protective effect of the ApoE3 genotype was observed in aged females. Our study highlights the role of ApoE in neurogenesis, and shows for the first time an early inequality between the ApoE genotypes. The reduced neurogenesis observed for the ApoE4 genotype and the improved results obtained in young ApoE2 females support the idea of a difference in the balance between neuronal birth and death modulated by the ApoE polymorphism in young animals. The maintenance of this balance and its modulation can influence pathophysiological mechanisms predisposing to neurodegenerative diseases like AD.

Keywords: Age factor; Alzheimer's disease; Apolipoprotein E2; Apolipoprotein E3; Apolipoprotein E4; Knock-in mice; Neurogenesis; Sex factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / classification
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics*
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Genotype
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Bromodeoxyuridine