Research Article

A vicious cycle of β amyloid–dependent neuronal hyperactivation

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Science  09 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6453, pp. 559-565
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay0198

Dissecting hyperactivation in AD

Progressive accumulation of amyloid β (Aβ) in the brain is a defining feature of Alzheimer's disease (AD). At late stages of AD, pathological Aβ accumulations cause neurodegeneration and cell death. However, neuronal dysfunction, consisting of an excessively increased activity in a fraction of brain neurons, already occurs in early stages of the disease. Zott et al. explored the cellular basis of this hyperactivity in mouse models of AD (see the Perspective by Selkoe). Aβ-mediated hyperactivation was linked to a defect in synaptic transmission exclusively in active neurons, with the most-active neurons having the highest risk of hyperactivation. Aβ-containing brain extracts from human AD patients sustained this vicious cycle, underscoring the potential relevance of this pathological mechanism in humans.

Science, this issue p. 559; see also p. 540


β-amyloid (Aβ)–dependent neuronal hyperactivity is believed to contribute to the circuit dysfunction that characterizes the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although experimental evidence in support of this hypothesis continues to accrue, the underlying pathological mechanisms are not well understood. In this experiment, we used mouse models of Aβ-amyloidosis to show that hyperactivation is initiated by the suppression of glutamate reuptake. Hyperactivity occurred in neurons with preexisting baseline activity, whereas inactive neurons were generally resistant to Aβ-mediated hyperactivation. Aβ-containing AD brain extracts and purified Aβ dimers were able to sustain this vicious cycle. Our findings suggest a cellular mechanism of Aβ-dependent neuronal dysfunction that can be active before plaque formation.

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