Apolipoprotein E4 causes early olfactory network abnormalities and short-term olfactory memory impairments

Neuroscience. 2017 Feb 20:343:364-371. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.12.004. Epub 2016 Dec 18.


While apolipoprotein (Apo) E4 is linked to increased incidence of Alzheimer's disease (AD), there is growing evidence that it plays a role in functional brain irregularities that are independent of AD pathology. However, ApoE4-driven functional differences within olfactory processing regions have yet to be examined. Utilizing knock-in mice humanized to ApoE4 versus the more common ApoE3, we examined a simple olfactory perceptual memory that relies on the transfer of information from the olfactory bulb (OB) to the piriform cortex (PCX), the primary cortical region involved in higher order olfaction. In addition, we have recorded in vivo resting and odor-evoked local field potentials (LPF) from both brain regions and measured corresponding odor response magnitudes in anesthetized young (6-month-old) and middle-aged (12-month-old) ApoE mice. Young ApoE4 compared to ApoE3 mice exhibited a behavioral olfactory deficit coinciding with hyperactive odor-evoked response magnitudes within the OB that were not observed in older ApoE4 mice. Meanwhile, middle-aged ApoE4 compared to ApoE3 mice exhibited heightened response magnitudes in the PCX without a corresponding olfactory deficit, suggesting a shift with aging in ApoE4-driven effects from OB to PCX. Interestingly, the increased ApoE4-specific response in the PCX at middle-age was primarily due to a dampening of baseline spontaneous activity rather than an increase in evoked response power. Our findings indicate that early ApoE4-driven olfactory memory impairments and OB network abnormalities may be a precursor to later network dysfunction in the PCX, a region that not only is targeted early in AD, but may be selectively vulnerable to ApoE4 genotype.

Keywords: apolipoprotein E; local field potential; memory deficits; olfaction; olfactory bulb; piriform cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / psychology
  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein E3 / genetics
  • Apolipoprotein E3 / metabolism*
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / genetics
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / metabolism*
  • Beta Rhythm / physiology
  • Female
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / genetics
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Olfactory Bulb / metabolism*
  • Olfactory Pathways / metabolism
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Piriform Cortex / metabolism*


  • Apolipoprotein E3
  • Apolipoprotein E4