Dysregulation of the Retromer Complex System in Down Syndrome

Ann Neurol. 2020 Jul;88(1):137-147. doi: 10.1002/ana.25752. Epub 2020 May 27.


Objective: Most of the patients with Down syndrome (DS) develop Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathology by age 40. Although this increased susceptibility to AD in DS is thought to be primarily due to triplication of the amyloid precursor protein located on chromosome 21, the precise molecular mechanisms are not well understood. Recent evidence has implicated defective protein sorting and trafficking secondary to deficiencies in retromer complex proteins in AD pathogenesis. Thus, the objective of the present study is to assess the retromer complex system in DS.

Methods: Human postmortem brain tissue and fibroblasts from subjects with DS and healthy controls were examined for the various retromer protein components using Western blot analysis and reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR).

Results: Retromer recognition core proteins were significantly decreased in DS fibroblasts, and in both the hippocampi and cortices of young (age 15-40 years old) and aged (40-65 years old) subjects with DS compared with controls. Correlation analyses showed a significant inverse relationship between recognition core proteins and levels of soluble forms of Aβ 1-40 and 1-42 in both hippocampus (n = 33, Spearman = -0.59 to -0.38, p ≤ 0.03 for VPS35, VPS26, VPS29, and VPS26B) and cortex tissue (n = 57, Spearman = -0.46 to -0.27, p ≤ 0.04 for VPS35, VPS26, and VPS29) of the same patients.

Interpretation: We conclude that dysregulation of the retromer complex system is an early event in the development of the AD-like pathology and cognitive decline in DS, and for this reason the system could represent a novel potential therapeutic target for DS. ANN NEUROL 2020 ANN NEUROL 2020;88:137-147.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Down Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Down Syndrome / pathology
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Transport
  • Young Adult