Pesticide exposure is recognized as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). We investigated early signs of AD-like pathology upon exposure to a pyrethroid pesticide, cypermethrin, reported to impair neurodevelopment. We treated weanling rats with cypermethrin (10 and 25 mg/kg) and detected dose-dependent increase in the key proteins of AD, amyloid beta (Aβ), and phospho-tau, in frontal cortex and hippocampus as early as postnatal day 45. Upregulation of Aβ pathway involved an increase in amyloid precursor protein (APP) and its pro-amyloidogenic processing through beta-secretase (BACE) and gamma-secretase. Tau pathway entailed elevation in tau and glycogen-synthase kinase-3-beta (GSK3β)-dependent, phospho-tau. GSK3β emerged as a molecular link between the two pathways, evident from reduction in phospho-tau as well as BACE upon treating GSK3β inhibitor, lithium chloride. Exploring the mechanism revealed an attenuated heparin-binding epidermal growth factor (HB-EGF) signaling and downstream astrogliosis-mediated neuroinflammation to be responsible for inducing Aβ and phospho-tau. Cypermethrin caused a proximal reduction in HB-EGF, which promoted astrocytic nuclear factor kappa B signaling and astroglial activation close to Aβ and phospho-tau. Glial activation stimulated generation of interleukin-1 (IL-1), which upregulated GSK3β, and APP and tau as well, resulting in co-localization of Aβ and phospho-tau with IL-1 receptor. Intracerebral insertion of exogenous HB-EGF restored its own signaling and suppressed neuroinflammation and thereby Aβ and phospho-tau in cypermethrin-exposed rats, proving a central role of reduced HB-EGF signaling in cypermethrin-mediated neurodegeneration. Furthermore, cypermethrin stimulated cognitive impairments, which could be prevented by exogenous HB-EGF. Our data demonstrate that cypermethrin induces premature upregulation of GSK3β-dependent Aβ and tau pathways, where HB-EGF signaling and neuroinflammation serve as essential regulators.
Keywords: Astrogliosis; Growth factor; NF-κB; Neurodegeneration; Pyrethroid.