Neprilysin deficiency alters the neuropathological and behavioral phenotype in the 5XFAD mouse model of Alzheimer's disease

J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;44(4):1291-302. doi: 10.3233/JAD-142463.


The deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) is one of the major neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In the case of sporadic AD, an imbalance in Aβ in production and clearance seems to be the reason for an enhanced Aβ accumulation. Besides a systematic clearance through the blood-brain barrier, Aβ is cleared from the brain by Aβ-degrading enzymes. The metalloprotease neprilysin (NEP) is an important Aβ-degrading enzyme as shown by numerous in vitro, in vivo and reverse genetics studies. 5XFAD mice represent an early-onset AD mouse model which develops plaque pathology starting with 2 months of age in addition to robust behavioral deficits at later time points. By crossing 5XFAD mice with homozygous NEP-knock-out mice (NEP-/-), we show that hemizygous NEP deficiency aggravates the behavioral and neuropathological phenotype of 5XFAD mice. We found that 5XFAD mice per se showed strongly decreased NEP expression levels compared to wildtype mice, which was aggravated by NEP reduction. 5XFAD/NEP+/- mice demonstrated impairment in spatial working memory and increased astrocytosis in all studied brain areas, in addition to an overall increased level of soluble Aβ42 as well as region-specific increases in extracellular Aβ deposition. Surprisingly, in young mice, a more abundant cortical Aβ plaque pathology was observed in 5XFAD compared to 5XFAD/NEP+/- mice. Additionally, young 5XFAD/NEP+/- as well as hemi- and homozygous NEP knockout mice showed elevated levels of endothelin-converting enzyme 1 (ECE1), suggesting a mutual regulation of ECE1 and NEP at young ages. The present data indicate that NEP mainly degrades soluble Aβ peptides, which confirms previous observations. Increased ECE1 levels correlated well with the strongly reduced extracellular plaque load in young 5XFAD/NEP+/- mice and might suggest a reciprocal effect between ECE and NEP activities in Aβ degradation.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; AβPP; amyloid; endothelin-converting enzyme; intraneuronal Aβ; neprilysin; transgenic mice; working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease* / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / genetics
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endothelin-Converting Enzymes
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Memory Disorders / genetics*
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neprilysin / deficiency*
  • Neprilysin / genetics
  • Presenilin-1 / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • PSEN1 protein, human
  • Presenilin-1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • Neprilysin
  • ECE1 protein, human
  • Ece1 protein, mouse
  • Endothelin-Converting Enzymes