Alzheimer?s disease (AD) is the most common cause of progressive dementia (memory and cognitive loss) in older adults. Presently, more than 5.5 million Americans may have dementia caused by AD. There is no cure for this debilitating condition. It is increasingly critical that we develop better early diagnostic tools and new treatment strategies for this neurodegenerative disease. Previous gene expression studies using brain tissue and cross-sectional design identify genes whose expression correlates with AD progression. Gene expression is regulated by the cell?s epigenome comprising of DNA methylation, histone modification and non- coding RNAs. We propose to characterize the epigenome of key cell types in neural circuits responsible for learning and memory. Our goal is to determine how the epigenome shapes hippocampal circuit activity and behaviors during AD progression, using the latest single cell genomic technologies coupled with functional circuit mapping and behavioral analysis. We will use two AD mouse models that recapitulate neuropathological features and functional defects observed in human Alzheimer?s. Our guiding hypothesis is that AD neurodegeneration causes significant alterations in the epigenome of cells, including maladaptive changes in accessible chromatin landscape and gene expression programs in disease relevant cell types. This in turn causes defects in specific neural circuit functionality during AD pathogenesis.
In Aim 1, we will generate a comprehensive epigenome- and transcription-based cell atlas for hippocampal CA1 and subiculum, and identify epigenomic changes that accompany AD progression in each cell type in AD model mice and age-matched control mice. Single nucleus ATAC-seq (snATAC-seq), single nucleus RNA-seq (snRNA-seq) and the newly developed Methyl-HI in single cells for joint mapping of DNA methylation and chromatin contacts will be key approaches. The proposed work will allow for creation of the first single cell multi-omics atlas of the hippocampal circuits, and will allow us to track the epigenomic changes exhibited by multiple specific cell populations at different AD-like neurodegeneration stages.
In Aims 2 and 3, we will investigate the cell subtype specific epigenomic and gene expression basis of neural circuit activities and related memory behaviors in AD model mice of middle age. We will measure epigenomic and behavioral changes in response to genetically targeted ontogenetic hippocampal circuit manipulation and histone deacetylase inhibition. Further, we will determine the beneficial effects of simple behavioral interventions via physical exercise on AD-related epigenomic signatures in Aim 3. Together, our proposed research will provide a new framework to study the molecular underpinnings of neural circuit activities affected during the course of AD pathogenesis. It will also lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets and molecular biomarkers for early detection and better treatment of AD.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an escalating age-related major health concern in the US. The proposed research will examine the molecular changes that occur in the course of AD using mouse models that mimic this neurodegenerative condition. The results could lead to new biomarkers for early detection of AD and candidate drug targets for development of effective treatments.