Background: The application of advanced sequencing technologies and improved mass-spectrometry platforms revealed significant changes in gene expression and lipids in Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain. The results so far have prompted further research using "multi-omics" approaches. These approaches become particularly relevant, considering the inheritance of APOEε4 allele as a major genetic risk factor of AD, disease protective effect of APOEε2 allele, and a major role of APOE in brain lipid metabolism.
Methods: Postmortem brain samples from inferior parietal lobule genotyped as APOEε2/c (APOEε2/carriers), APOEε3/3, and APOEε4/c (APOEε4/carriers), age- and gender-matched, were used to reveal APOE allele-associated changes in transcriptomes and lipidomes. Differential gene expression and co-expression network analyses were applied to identify up- and downregulated Gene Ontology (GO) terms and pathways for correlation to lipidomics data.
Results: Significantly affected GO terms and pathways were determined based on the comparisons of APOEε2/c datasets to those of APOEε3/3 and APOEε4/c brain samples. The analysis of lists of genes in highly correlated network modules and of those differentially expressed demonstrated significant enrichment in GO terms associated with genes involved in intracellular proteasomal and lysosomal degradation of proteins, protein aggregates and organelles, ER stress, and response to unfolded protein, as well as mitochondrial function, electron transport, and ATP synthesis. Small nucleolar RNA coding units important for posttranscriptional modification of mRNA and therefore translation and protein synthesis were upregulated in APOEε2/c brain samples compared to both APOEε3/3 and APOEε4/c. The analysis of lipidomics datasets revealed significant changes in ten major lipid classes (exclusively a decrease in APOEε4/c samples), most notably non-bilayer-forming phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidic acid, as well as mitochondrial membrane-forming lipids.
Conclusions: The results of this study, despite the advanced stage of AD, point to the significant differences in postmortem brain transcriptomes and lipidomes, suggesting APOE allele associated differences in pathogenic mechanisms. Correlations within and between lipidomes and transcriptomes indicate coordinated effects of changes in the proteasomal system and autophagy-canonical and selective, facilitating intracellular degradation, protein entry into ER, response to ER stress, nucleolar modifications of mRNA, and likely myelination in APOEε2/c brains. Additional research and a better knowledge of the molecular mechanisms of proteostasis in the early stages of AD are required to develop more effective diagnostic approaches and eventually efficient therapeutic strategies.
Keywords: APOE; Alzheimer’s disease; Human brain; Intracellular homeostasis and proteostasis; Multi-omics analysis; RNA-seq transcriptomics; Shotgun lipidomics.