Emergence of synaptic and cognitive impairment in a mature-onset APP mouse model of Alzheimer's disease

Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2019 Feb 22;7(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s40478-019-0670-1.


The synaptic changes underlying the onset of cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's disease (AD) are poorly understood. In contrast to the well documented inhibition of long-term potentiation (LTP) in CA3-CA1 synapses by acute Aβ application in adult neurons from rodents, young amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic mouse models often, surprisingly, show normal LTP. This suggests that there may be important differences between mature-onset and developmental-onset APP expression/ Aβ accumulation and the ensuing synaptic and behavioural phenotype. Here, in agreement with previous studies, we observed that developmental expression of APPSw,Ind (3-4 month old mice from line 102, PLoS Med 2:e355, 2005), resulted in reduced basal synaptic transmission in CA3-CA1 synapses, normal LTP, impaired spatial working memory, but normal spatial reference memory. To analyse early Aβ-mediated synaptic dysfunction and cognitive impairment in a more mature brain, we used controllable mature-onset APPSw,Ind expression in line 102 mice. Within 3 weeks of mature-onset APPSw,Ind expression and Aβ accumulation, we detected the first synaptic dysfunction: an impairment of LTP in hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses. Cognitively, at this time point, we observed a deficit in short-term memory. A reduction in basal synaptic strength and deficit in long-term associative spatial memory were only evident following 12 weeks of APPSw,Ind expression. Importantly, the plasticity impairment observed after 3 weeks of mature-onset APP expression is reversible. Together, these findings demonstrate important differences between developmental and mature-onset APP expression. Further research targeted at this early stage of synaptic dysfunction could help identify mechanisms to treat cognitive impairment in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / biosynthesis*
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / genetics
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / genetics
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Synapses / genetics
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor