Lifelong choline supplementation ameliorates Alzheimer's disease pathology and associated cognitive deficits by attenuating microglia activation

Aging Cell. 2019 Dec;18(6):e13037. doi: 10.1111/acel.13037. Epub 2019 Sep 27.


Currently, there are no effective therapies to ameliorate the pathological progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Evidence suggests that environmental factors may contribute to AD. Notably, dietary nutrients are suggested to play a key role in mediating mechanisms associated with brain function. Choline is a B-like vitamin nutrient found in common foods that is important in various cell functions. It serves as a methyl donor and as a precursor for production of cell membranes. Choline is also the precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which activates the alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAchR), and also acts as an agonist for the Sigma-1 R (σ1R). These receptors regulate CNS immune response, and their dysregulation contributes to AD pathogenesis. Here, we tested whether dietary choline supplementation throughout life reduces AD-like pathology and rescues memory deficits in the APP/PS1 mouse model of AD. We exposed female APP/PS1 and NonTg mice to either a control choline (1.1 g/kg choline chloride) or a choline-supplemented diet (5.0 g/kg choline chloride) from 2.5 to 10 months of age. Mice were tested in the Morris water maze to assess spatial memory followed by neuropathological evaluation. Lifelong choline supplementation significantly reduced amyloid-β plaque load and improved spatial memory in APP/PS1 mice. Mechanistically, these changes were linked to a decrease of the amyloidogenic processing of APP, reductions in disease-associated microglial activation, and a downregulation of the α7nAch and σ1 receptors. Our results demonstrate that lifelong choline supplementation produces profound benefits and suggest that simply modifying diet throughout life may reduce AD pathology.

Keywords: APP/PS1 mice; Alzheimer's disease; Aβ; Sigma-1 receptor; alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; choline supplementation; microglia activation; spatial memory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Choline / administration & dosage
  • Choline / pharmacology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Longevity / drug effects*
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / drug effects*
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Nootropic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology*


  • Nootropic Agents
  • Choline