Neuronal Apolipoprotein E4 Expression Results in Proteome-Wide Alterations and Compromises Bioenergetic Capacity by Disrupting Mitochondrial Function

J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;68(3):991-1011. doi: 10.3233/JAD-181184.


Apolipoprotein (apo) E4, the major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), alters mitochondrial function and metabolism early in AD pathogenesis. When injured or stressed, neurons increase apoE synthesis. Because of its structural difference from apoE3, apoE4 undergoes neuron-specific proteolysis, generating fragments that enter the cytosol, interact with mitochondria, and cause neurotoxicity. However, apoE4's effect on mitochondrial respiration and metabolism is not understood in detail. Here we used biochemical assays and proteomic profiling to more completely characterize the effects of apoE4 on mitochondrial function and cellular metabolism in Neuro-2a neuronal cells stably expressing apoE4 or apoE3. Under basal conditions, apoE4 impaired respiration and increased glycolysis, but when challenged or stressed, apoE4-expressing neurons had 50% less reserve capacity to generate ATP to meet energy requirements than apoE3-expressing neurons. ApoE4 expression also decreased the NAD+/NADH ratio and increased the levels of reactive oxygen species and mitochondrial calcium. Global proteomic profiling revealed widespread changes in mitochondrial processes in apoE4 cells, including reduced levels of numerous respiratory complex subunits and major disruptions to all detected subunits in complex V (ATP synthase). Also altered in apoE4 cells were levels of proteins related to mitochondrial endoplasmic reticulum-associated membranes, mitochondrial fusion/fission, mitochondrial protein translocation, proteases, and mitochondrial ribosomal proteins. ApoE4-induced bioenergetic deficits led to extensive metabolic rewiring, but despite numerous cellular adaptations, apoE4-expressing neurons remained vulnerable to metabolic stress. Our results provide insights into potential molecular targets of therapies to correct apoE4-associated mitochondrial dysfunction and altered cellular metabolism.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; apoE4; mitochondrial respiration; neurodegeneration; neuronal metabolism; protein expression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • NAD / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Proteome / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Transcriptome


  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Proteome
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • NAD
  • Adenosine Triphosphate