Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by dementia and abnormal deposits of aggregated amyloid-β in the brain. Recent genome-wide association studies have revealed that ABCA7 is strongly associated with AD. In vitro evidence suggests that the role of ABCA7 is related to phagocytic activity. Deletion of ABCA7 in a mouse model of AD exacerbates cerebral amyloid-β plaque load. However, the biological role of ABCA7 in AD brain pathogenesis is unknown. We show that ABCA7 is highly expressed in microglia and when monocytes are differentiated into macrophages. We hypothesized that ABCA7 plays a protective role in the brain that is related to phagocytic clearance of amyloid-β. We isolated microglia and macrophages from Abca7-/- and wild type mice and tested them for their capacity to phagocytose amyloid-β oligomers. We found that the phagocytic clearance of amyloid-β was substantially reduced in both microglia and macrophages from Abca7-/- mice compared to wild type mice. Consistent with these results, in vivo phagocytic clearance of amyloid-β oligomers in the hippocampus was reduced in Abca7-/- mice. Furthermore, ABCA7 transcription was upregulated in AD brains and in amyloidogenic mouse brains specifically in the hippocampus as a response to the amyloid-β pathogenic state. Together these results indicate that ABCA7 mediates phagocytic clearance of amyloid-β in the brain, and reveal a mechanism by which loss of function of ABCA7 increases the susceptibility to AD.
Keywords: ABCA7; Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-beta; brain; microglia; mouse model; phagocytosis.