Myelin dysfunction drives amyloid-β deposition in models of Alzheimer's disease

Nature. 2023 Jun;618(7964):349-357. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06120-6. Epub 2023 May 31.


The incidence of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the leading cause of dementia, increases rapidly with age, but why age constitutes the main risk factor is still poorly understood. Brain ageing affects oligodendrocytes and the structural integrity of myelin sheaths1, the latter of which is associated with secondary neuroinflammation2,3. As oligodendrocytes support axonal energy metabolism and neuronal health4-7, we hypothesized that loss of myelin integrity could be an upstream risk factor for neuronal amyloid-β (Aβ) deposition, the central neuropathological hallmark of AD. Here we identify genetic pathways of myelin dysfunction and demyelinating injuries as potent drivers of amyloid deposition in mouse models of AD. Mechanistically, myelin dysfunction causes the accumulation of the Aβ-producing machinery within axonal swellings and increases the cleavage of cortical amyloid precursor protein. Suprisingly, AD mice with dysfunctional myelin lack plaque-corralling microglia despite an overall increase in their numbers. Bulk and single-cell transcriptomics of AD mouse models with myelin defects show that there is a concomitant induction of highly similar but distinct disease-associated microglia signatures specific to myelin damage and amyloid plaques, respectively. Despite successful induction, amyloid disease-associated microglia (DAM) that usually clear amyloid plaques are apparently distracted to nearby myelin damage. Our data suggest a working model whereby age-dependent structural defects of myelin promote Aβ plaque formation directly and indirectly and are therefore an upstream AD risk factor. Improving oligodendrocyte health and myelin integrity could be a promising target to delay development and slow progression of AD.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Axons / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Mice
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Myelin Sheath* / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath* / pathology
  • Plaque, Amyloid* / genetics
  • Plaque, Amyloid* / metabolism
  • Plaque, Amyloid* / pathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Single-Cell Gene Expression Analysis


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • APP protein, mouse