iPSC-Derived Microglia for Modeling Human-Specific DAMP and PAMP Responses in the Context of Alzheimer's Disease

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 18;21(24):9668. doi: 10.3390/ijms21249668.


Neuroinflammation in Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been the focus for identifying targetable pathways for drug development. The role of amyloid beta (Aβ), a prototype of damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), has been implicated in triggering an inflammatory response. As alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7 nAChR) binds Aβ with high affinity, α7 nAChR may play a role in Aβ-induced neuroinflammation. The conundrum of how α7 nAChR as the mediator of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory response may trigger an inflammatory response has not been resolved. CHRFAM7A, the uniquely human fusion gene between ULK4 and CHRNA7, is a negative regulator of α7 nAChR ionotropic function. To provide the human context, isogenic induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines were developed from CHRFAM7A null and carrier individuals by genome-editing the null line using TALENs to knock-in CHRFAM7A. In iPSC-derived microglia-like cells, CHRFAM7A mitigated Aβ uptake through the α7 nAChR. Despite the lower Aβ uptake, the presence of CHRFAM7A was associated with an innate immune response that was characterized by NF-κB activation and NF-κB target transcription (TNFA, IL6, and IL1B). LPS, a prototype PAMP, induced a heightened immune response in CHRFAM7A carriers. CHRFAM7A modified the dynamics of NF-κB translocation by prolonging its nuclear presence. CHRFAM7A modified the α7 nAChR metabotropic function, resulting in a human-specific innate immune response. This iPSC model provided an opportunity to elucidate the mechanism and establish high throughput screens.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; CHRFAM7A; DAMPs; NF-κB activation; PAMP; cholinergic anti-inflammatory response; neuroinflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Alarmins / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Cell Movement
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunologic Surveillance
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Microglia / cytology
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Pathogen-Associated Molecular Pattern Molecules / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor / genetics
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor / metabolism


  • Alarmins
  • Chrna7 protein, human
  • NF-kappa B
  • Pathogen-Associated Molecular Pattern Molecules
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor