Influenza vaccination in early Alzheimer's disease rescues amyloidosis and ameliorates cognitive deficits in APP/PS1 mice by inhibiting regulatory T cells

J Neuroinflammation. 2020 Feb 19;17(1):65. doi: 10.1186/s12974-020-01741-4.


Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder strongly correlated with a dysfunctional immune system. Our previous results demonstrated that inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) facilitates hippocampal neurogenesis and blocks lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced cognitive impairment. However, whether IIV improves cognitive deficits in an AD mouse model remains unclear. In addition, early interventions in AD have been encouraged in recent years. Here, we investigated whether IIV immunization at the preclinical stage of AD alters the brain pathology and cognitive deficits in an APP/ PS1 mouse model.

Methods: We assessed spatial learning and memory using Morris water maze (MWM). The brain β-amyloid (Aβ) plaque burden and activated microglia were investigated by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, flow cytometry was utilized to analyze the proportions of Treg cells in the spleen. A cytokine antibody array was performed to measure the alteration of cytokines in the brain and peripheral immune system.

Results: Five IIV immunizations activated microglia, reduced the Aβ burden and improved the cognitive impairment. Simultaneously, the IIV-induced immune response broke peripheral immunosuppression by reducing Foxp3+ regulatory T cell (Treg) activities, whereas the restoration of Treg level in the periphery using all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) blunted the protective effects of IIV on Aβ burden and cognitive functions. Interestingly, IIV immunization might increase proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine expression in the brain of APP/PS1 mice, enhanced microglial activation, and enhanced the clustering and phagocytosis of Aβ, thereby creating new homeostasis in the disordered immune microenvironment.

Conclusions: Altogether, our results suggest that early multiple IIV immunizations exert a beneficial immunomodulatory effect in APP/PS1 mice by breaking Treg-mediated systemic immune tolerance, maintaining the activation of microglia and removing of Aβ plaques, eventually improving cognitive deficits.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Influenza vaccine; Microglia; Regulatory T cells; β-Amyloid.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor* / genetics
  • Amyloidosis / drug therapy*
  • Amyloidosis / genetics
  • Amyloidosis / pathology
  • Animals
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / genetics
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Presenilin-1* / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / pathology


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Presenilin-1