Late-Life Alcohol Exposure Does Not Exacerbate Age-Dependent Reductions in Mouse Spatial Memory and Brain TFEB Activity

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Feb 28:2024.02.23.581774. doi: 10.1101/2024.02.23.581774.


Alcohol consumption is believed to affect Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk, but the contributing mechanisms are not well understood. A potential mediator of the proposed alcohol-AD connection is autophagy, a degradation pathway that maintains organelle and protein homeostasis. Autophagy is in turn regulated through the activity of Transcription factor EB (TFEB), which promotes lysosome and autophagy-related gene expression. To explore the effect of alcohol on brain TFEB and autophagy, we exposed young (3-month old) and aged (23-month old) mice to two alcohol-feeding paradigms and assessed biochemical, transcriptome, histology, and behavioral endpoints. In young mice, alcohol decreased hippocampal nuclear TFEB staining but increased SQSTM1/p62, LC3-II, ubiquitinated proteins, and phosphorylated Tau. Hippocampal TFEB activity was lower in aged mice than it was in young mice, and Gao-binge alcohol feeding did not worsen the age-related reduction in TFEB activity. To better assess the impact of chronic alcohol exposure, we fed young and aged mice alcohol for four weeks before completing Morris Water and Barnes Maze spatial memory testing. The aged mice showed worse spatial memory on both tests. While alcohol feeding slightly impaired spatial memory in the young mice, it had little effect or even slightly improved spatial memory in the aged mice. These findings suggest that aging is a far more important driver of spatial memory impairment and reduced autophagy flux than alcohol consumption.

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