Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common cause of ageing-dependent dementia in the world and is associated with cerebral amyloid plaques, mostly composed of A? peptides. These peptides are produced by a double cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein (APP). BACE1 cleavage produces the C-terminal fragment, ?-CTF, which is then processed into several A? isoforms by ?-secretase. Genetic data suggest that regulation of APP processing contributes to AD. In addition, a polymorphism of APP that reduces processing of APP by BACE1 protects from sporadic AD and from normal aging-dependent cognitive decline. Thus, the human genetic evidence indicates that APP and APP processing are important for normal cognitive functions. To gain insights into the pathogenic mechanisms of AD we introduced a familial APP mutation (the Swedish K670N/M671L mutation, AppS rats) and a familial PSEN1 mutation (L435F, Psen1LF rats) into the genomic App and Psen1 rat loci, respectively. Rat and human APP differ by 3 amino-acids in the A? region: given that aggregated forms of A? are considered by most the main pathogenic factor in AD, and given that human A? may have higher propensity than rodent A? to form yet-to-be-identified toxic forms of A?, together with the Swedish mutations we introduced mutations to ?humanize? the rat A? sequence. As controls, we produced rats carrying only the humanized A? sequence (Apph rats). We choose a knock in (KI) approach rather than the more common transgenic overexpression approach because KI models make no preconceived assumption about pathogenic mechanisms, except the unbiased genetic one. In contrast, transgenic models, which produce high levels of A? and can readily deposit amyloid plaques, are based on the hypothesis that plaques and/or other forms of toxic A? have a central pathogenic role. We propose to dissect pathogenic mechanisms of neurodegeneration using these KI rat models of FAD. We will study the impact of App and Psen1 FAD mutations on APP processing, brain pathology, neuro-inflammation and neurodegeneration, synaptic transmission/plasticity, learning & memory. In addition, we will assess the role of distinct APP-derived metabolites in neurodegenerative processes triggered by mutant APP and PSEN1. These studies will test the mainstream hypotheses but also consider alterative pathogenic mechanisms, including the possibility that FAD pathogenesis may depend on the alteration of the normal function of APP and PSEN1 in the brain.
Mutations in genes that regulate the processing of APP cause Familial Dementias in humans. However, the precise pathogenic mechanisms connecting these alterations to dementia are still unknown. To investigate these issues, we have created new rat models of Familial Alzheimer Disease: analysis of these new rats may unveil functions of APP that, if altered like in Alzheimer disease, may contribute to dementia.