Arteriolar degeneration and stiffness in cerebral amyloid angiopathy are linked to β-amyloid deposition and lysyl oxidase

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Apr 17:2024.03.08.583563. doi: 10.1101/2024.03.08.583563.


Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) is a vasculopathy characterized by vascular β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition on cerebral blood vessels. CAA is closely linked to Alzheimer's disease (AD) and intracerebral hemorrhage. CAA is associated with the loss of autoregulation in the brain, vascular rupture, and cognitive decline. To assess morphological and molecular changes associated with the degeneration of penetrating arterioles in CAA, we analyzed post-mortem human brain tissue from 26 patients with mild, moderate, and severe CAA end neurological controls. The tissue was optically cleared for three-dimensional light sheet microscopy, and morphological features were quantified using surface volume rendering. We stained Aβ, vascular smooth muscle (VSM), lysyl oxidase (LOX), and vascular markers to visualize the relationship between degenerative morphological features, including vascular dilation, dolichoectasia (variability in lumenal diameter) and tortuosity, and the volumes of VSM, Aβ, and LOX in arterioles. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to assess arteriolar wall stiffness, and we identified a pattern of morphological features associated with degenerating arterioles in the cortex. The volume of VSM associated with the arteriole was reduced by around 80% in arterioles with severe CAA and around 60% in cases with mild/moderate CAA. This loss of VSM correlated with increased arteriolar diameter and variability of diameter, suggesting VSM loss contributes to arteriolar laxity. These vascular morphological features correlated strongly with Aβ deposits. At sites of microhemorrhage, Aβ was consistently present, although the morphology of the deposits changed from the typical organized ring shape to sharply contoured shards with marked dilation of the vessel. AFM showed that arteriolar walls with CAA were more than 400% stiffer than those without CAA. Finally, we characterized the association of vascular degeneration with LOX, finding strong associations with VSM loss and vascular degeneration. These results show an association between vascular Aβ deposition, microvascular degeneration, and increased vascular stiffness, likely due to the combined effects of replacement of VSM by β-amyloid, cross-linking of extracellular matrices (ECM) by LOX, and possibly fibrosis. This advanced microscopic imaging study clarifies the association between Aβ deposition and vascular fragility. Restoration of physiologic ECM properties in penetrating arteries may yield a novel therapeutic strategy for CAA.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease (AD); Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA); Lysyl oxidase (LOX); Vascular smooth muscle (VSM); three-dimensional microscopy; β-amyloid.

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