Exercising New Neurons to Vanquish Alzheimer Disease.

Llorens-Martín M.

Brain Plasticity
doi: 10.3233/BPL-180065.

Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia in individuals over 65 years of age. The neuropathological hallmarks of the condition are Tau neurofibrillary tangles and Amyloid-β senile plaques. Moreover, certain susceptible regions of the brain experience a generalized lack of neural plasticity and marked synaptic alterations during the progression of this as yet incurable disease. One of these regions, the hippocampus, is characterized by the continuous addition of new neurons throughout life. This phenomenon, named adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN), provides a potentially endless source of new synaptic elements that increase the complexity and plasticity of the hippocampal circuitry. Numerous lines of evidence show that physical activity and environmental enrichment (EE) are among the most potent positive regulators of AHN. Given that neural plasticity is markedly decreased in many neurodegenerative diseases, the therapeutic potential of making certain lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, is being recognised in several non-pharmacologic strategies seeking to slow down or prevent the progression of these diseases. This review article summarizes current evidence supporting the putative therapeutic potential of EE and physical exercise to increase AHN and hippocampal plasticity both under physiological and pathological circumstances, with a special emphasis on neurodegenerative diseases and AD.

The Role of Microglia in the Spread of Tau: Relevance for Tauopathies.

Perea JR, Llorens-Martín M, Ávila J, Bolós M.

Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.

Tauopathies are neurodegenerative diseases which course with the accumulation of Tau, mainly in neurons. In addition, Tau accumulates in a hyperphosphorylated and aggregated form. This protein is released into the extracellular space and spreads following a stereotypical pattern, inducing the development of the disease through connected regions of the brain. Microglia-the macrophages of the brain-are involved in maintaining brain homeostasis. They perform a variety of functions related to the surveillance and clearance of pathological proteins, among other dead cells and debris, from the extracellular space that could compromise brain equilibrium. This review focuses on the role played by microglia in tauopathies, specifically in Alzheimer's disease (AD), and how the uncoupling of activation/phagocytosis functions can have fatal consequences leading to the development of the pathology.

Anti-IL17 treatment ameliorates Down syndrome phenotypes in mice.

Rueda N, Vidal V, García-Cerro S, Narcís JO, Llorens-Martín M, Corrales A, Lantigua S, Iglesias M, Merino J, Merino R, Martínez-Cué C.

Brain Behavior and Immunity
73: 235-251.
doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2018.05.008.

Down syndrome (DS) is characterized by structural and functional anomalies that are present prenatally and that lead to intellectual disabilities. Later in life, the cognitive abilities of DS individuals progressively deteriorate due to the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD)-associated neuropathology (i.e., β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques, neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), neurodegeneration, synaptic pathology, neuroinflammation and increased oxidative stress). Increasing evidence has shown that among these pathological processes, neuroinflammation plays a predominant role in AD etiopathology. In AD mouse models, increased neuroinflammation appears earlier than Aβ plaques and NFTs, and in DS and AD models, neuroinflammation exacerbates the levels of soluble and insoluble Aβ species, favoring neurodegeneration. The Ts65Dn (TS) mouse, the most commonly used murine model of DS, recapitulates many alterations present in both DS and AD individuals, including enhanced neuroinflammation. In this study, we observed an altered neuroinflammatory milieu in the hippocampus of the TS mouse model. Pro-inflammatory mediators that were elevated in the hippocampus of this model included pro-inflammatory cytokine IL17A, which has a fundamental role in mediating brain damage in neuroinflammatory processes. Here, we analyzed the ability of an anti-IL17A antibody to reduce the neuropathological alterations that are present in TS mice during early neurodevelopmental stages (i.e., hippocampal neurogenesis and hypocellularity) or that are aggravated in later-life stages (i.e., cognitive abilities, cholinergic neuronal loss and increased cellular senescence, APP expression, Aβ peptide expression and neuroinflammation). Administration of anti-IL17 for 5 months, starting at the age of 7 months, partially improved the cognitive abilities of the TS mice, reduced the expression of several pro-inflammatory cytokines and the density of activated microglia and normalized the APP and Aβ1-42 levels in the hippocampi of the TS mice. These results suggest that IL17-mediated neuroinflammation is involved in several AD phenotypes in TS mice and provide a new therapeutic target to reduce these pathological characteristics.

Untold New Beginnings: Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Alzheimer's Disease.

Teixeira CM, Pallas-Bazarra N, Bolós M, Terreros-Roncal J, Ávila J, Llorens-Martín M.

Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
doi: 10.3233/JAD-179918.

Neurogenesis occurs in a limited number of brain regions during adulthood. Of these, the hippocampus has attracted great interest due to its involvement in memory processing. Moreover, both the hippocampus and the main area that innervates this structure, namely the entorhinal cortex, show remarkable atrophy in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is a process that continuously gives rise to newborn granule neurons in the dentate gyrus. These cells coexist with developmentally generated granule neurons in this structure, and both cooperative and competition phenomena regulate the communication between these two types of cells. Importantly, it has been revealed that GSK-3β and tau proteins, which are two of the main players driving AD pathology, are cornerstones of adult hippocampal neurogenesis regulation. We have shown that alterations either promoting or impeding the actions of these two proteins have detrimental effects on the structural plasticity of granule neurons. Of note, these impairments occur both under basal conditions and in response to detrimental and neuroprotective stimuli. Thus, in order to achieve the full effectiveness of future therapies for AD, we propose that attention be turned toward identifying the pathological and physiological actions of the proteins involved in the pathogenesis of this condition.

New Beginnings in Alzheimer's Disease: The Most Prevalent Tauopathy.

Hernández F, Llorens-Martín M, Bolós M, Pérez M, Cuadros R, Pallas-Bazarra N, Zabala JC, Avila J.

Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
doi: 10.3233/JAD-179916.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by the presence of two aberrant structures: namely senile plaques, composed of amyloid-β peptide (Aβ), and neurofibrillary tangles, composed of tau protein. In this regard, Aβ and tau protein have been widely studied in research efforts aiming to find a therapy for AD. Aβ and tau pathologies do not always overlap. The precursor of Aβ is expressed in peripheral tissues and in the central nervous system (CNS), whereas tau is mainly a neuronal protein. Since AD is a disease of the CNS, it has been proposed that Aβ may initiate the disease process, with tau being the executor. In this review, we will focus on future studies of tau pathology, although we will comment on new beginnings for AD, as other molecules other than Aβ and tau may be involved in the onset of dementia.

Absence of microglial CX3CR1 impairs the synaptic integration of adult-born hippocampal granule neurons.

Bolós M, Perea JR, Terreros-Roncal J, Pallas-Bazarra N, Jurado-Arjona J, Ávila J, Llorens-Martín M.

Brain Behavior and Immunity.
doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2017.10.002.

Microglia are immune cells that play a crucial role in maintaining brain homeostasis. Among the mechanisms of communication between microglia and neurons, the CX3CL1/CX3CR1 axis exerts a central modulatory role. Animals lacking CX3CR1 microglial receptor (CX3CR1-/- mice) exhibit marked alterations not only in microglia but also in neurons located in various regions of the brain. Here we show that microglial depletion of CX3CR1 leads to the deficient synaptic integration of adult-born granule neurons in the dentate gyrus (DG), both at the afferent and efferent level. Regarding the alterations in the former level, these cells show a reduced number of dendritic spines, which also exhibit morphological changes, namely enlargement and shortening. With respect to changes at the efferent level, these cells show a reduced area of axonal terminals. Both at the afferent and efferent level, synapses show ultrastructural enlargement, but they are depleted of synaptic vesicles, which suggests impaired functionality. We also show that selective increased microglial activation and extracellular matrix deposition in the zones in which the afferent synaptic contacts of these cells occur, namely in the molecular and the granule layer of the DG. In order to evaluate the impact of these structural alterations from a functional point of view, we performed a battery of behavioral tests related to hippocampal-dependent emotional behavior. We observed that female CX3CR1-/- mice exhibit a hyperactive, anxiolytic-like and depressive-like phenotype. These data shed light on novel aspects of the regulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis by microglia that could be highly relevant for research into mood disorders.


Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CBMSO) Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Campus de Cantoblanco)
C/ Nicolás Cabrera 1 - 28049 Madrid (Spain)

María Llorens-Martín (PI)
+34 911964632