Suppression of Fli-1 protects against pericyte loss and cognitive deficits in Alzheimer's disease

Mol Ther. 2022 Apr 6;30(4):1451-1464. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2022.01.023. Epub 2022 Jan 14.


Brain pericytes regulate cerebral blood flow, maintain the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), and facilitate the removal of amyloid β (Aβ), which is critical to healthy brain activity. Pericyte loss has been observed in brains from patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and animal models. Our previous data demonstrated that friend leukemia virus integration 1 (Fli-1), an erythroblast transformation-specific (ETS) transcription factor, governs pericyte viability in murine sepsis; however, the role of Fli-1 and its impact on pericyte loss in AD remain unknown. Here, we demonstrated that Fli-1 expression was up-regulated in postmortem brains from a cohort of human AD donors and in 5xFAD mice, which corresponded with a decreased pericyte number, elevated inflammatory mediators, and increased Aβ accumulation compared with cognitively normal individuals and wild-type (WT) mice. Antisense oligonucleotide Fli-1 Gapmer administered via intrahippocampal injection decelerated pericyte loss, decreased inflammatory response, ameliorated cognitive deficits, improved BBB dysfunction, and reduced Aβ deposition in 5xFAD mice. Fli-1 Gapmer-mediated inhibition of Fli-1 protected against Aβ accumulation-induced human brain pericyte apoptosis in vitro. Overall, these studies indicate that Fli-1 contributes to pericyte loss, inflammatory response, Aβ deposition, vascular dysfunction, and cognitive decline, and suggest that inhibition of Fli-1 may represent novel therapeutic strategies for AD.

Keywords: 5xFAD; Alzheimer's disease; Fli-1; Gapmer; antisense oligonucleotide; blood-brain barrier; cognitive deficit; pericytes.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / genetics
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / genetics
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Pericytes / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-fli-1 / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Fli1 protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-fli-1