Toll-like receptor 4-dependent glial cell activation mediates the impairment in memory establishment induced by β-amyloid oligomers in an acute mouse model of Alzheimer's disease

Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Feb;60:188-197. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.10.012. Epub 2016 Oct 14.


Background: Amyloid-β oligomers (AβO) are species mainly involved in the synaptic and cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease. Although their action has been described mainly at neuronal level, it is now clear that glial cells govern synaptic activity in their resting state, contributing to new learning and memory establishment. In contrast, when activated, they may lead to synaptic and cognitive dysfunction. Using a reliable acute AβO-mediated mouse model of AD, we explored whether the memory alteration AβOs induce relies on the activation of glial cells, and if Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), pivotal in the initiation of an immune response, is involved.

Methods: C57 naïve mice were given a single intracerebroventricular injection of synthetic AβO-containing solution (1μM), which induces substantial impairment in the establishment of recognition memory. Then, first we assessed glial cell activation at different times post-injection by western blot, immunohistochemistry and ELISA in the hippocampus. After that we explored the efficacy of pre-treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs (indomethacin and an IL-1β receptor antagonist) to prevent impairment in the novel object recognition task, and compared AβO's effects in TLR4 knockout mice.

Results: A single AβO injection rapidly activated glial cells and increased pro-inflammatory cytokine expression. Both anti-inflammatory drugs prevented the AβO-mediated impairment in memory establishment. A selective TLR4 receptor antagonist abolished AβO's action on memory, and in TLR4 knockout mice it had no effect on either memory or glial activation.

Conclusions: These data provide new information on AβO's mechanism of action, indicating that besides direct action at the synapses, they also act through the immune system, with TLR4 playing a major role. This suggests that in a potential therapeutic setting inflammation must be considered as well.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Beta-amyloid oligomers; IL-1β; IL-1β receptor antagonist; Indomethacin; Memory impairment; Neuroinflammation; Novel object recognition test; Pro-inflammatory cytokines; Toll-like receptor 4.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4