The Amyloid Precursor Protein Modulates the Position and Length of the Axon Initial Segment

J Neurosci. 2023 Mar 8;43(10):1830-1844. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0172-22.2023. Epub 2023 Jan 30.


The amyloid precursor protein (APP) is linked to the genetics and pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). It is the parent protein of the β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide, the main constituent of the amyloid plaques found in an AD brain. The pathways from APP to Aβ are intensively studied, yet the normal functions of APP itself have generated less interest. We report here that glutamate stimulation of neuronal activity leads to a rapid increase in App gene expression. In mouse and human neurons, elevated APP protein changes the structure of the axon initial segment (AIS) where action potentials are initiated. The AIS is shortened in length and shifts away from the cell body. The GCaMP8f Ca2+ reporter confirms the predicted decrease in neuronal activity. NMDA antagonists or knockdown of App block the glutamate effects. The actions of APP on the AIS are cell-autonomous; exogenous Aβ, either fibrillar or oligomeric, has no effect. In culture, APPSwe (a familial AD mutation) induces larger AIS changes than wild type APP. Ankyrin G and βIV-spectrin, scaffolding proteins of the AIS, both physically associate with APP, more so in AD brains. Finally, in humans with sporadic AD or in the R1.40 AD mouse model, both females and males, neurons have elevated levels of APP protein that invade the AIS. In vivo as in vitro, this increased APP is associated with a significant shortening of the AIS. The findings outline a new role for the APP and encourage a reconsideration of its relationship to AD.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT While the amyloid precursor protein (APP) has long been associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD), the normal functions of the full-length Type I membrane protein have been largely unexplored. We report here that the levels of APP protein increase with neuronal activity. In vivo and in vitro, modest amounts of excess APP alter the properties of the axon initial segment. The β-amyloid peptide derived from APP is without effect. Consistent with the observed changes in the axon initial segment which would be expected to decrease action potential firing, we show that APP expression depresses neuronal activity. In mouse AD models and human sporadic AD, APP physically associates with the scaffolding proteins of the axon initial segment, suggesting a relationship with AD dementia.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Ankyrin G; Aβ; action potential; excitotoxicity; βIV-spectrin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / genetics
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Axon Initial Segment* / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Membrane Proteins