Spatial heterogeneity in microglial ultrastructural alterations in the APP-PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease amyloid pathology

Authors: El Hajj, Hassan
Advisor: Tremblay, Marie-Ève
Abstract: The main hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are the deposition of extracellular amyloid (A)β plaques and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles composed of tau protein. As the disease progresses, neuronal death and decreased synaptic density is observed, concurrent with an increase of neuroinflammation and immune dysfunction. The process of neuroinflammation is tightly linked to the presence of Aβ plaques and may affect microglial interactions with neuronal structures throughout disease progression. Substantial and chronic microglial activation triggered by the presence of Aβ is suspected to affect brain homeostasis due to an alteration of microglial physiological actions, notably at synapses. Here we aim to generate new insights regarding microglial implication in AD pathophysiology by combining light and electron microscopy to study microglial ultrastructure and neuronal/synaptic interactions with relation to Aβ plaque deposition. 14 months old APP-PS1 mice were studied alongside age-matched controls. Also, postmortem human AD sections were examined in our study. In our experiments, Aβ plaques were visualized using Methoxy-XO4 which binds selectively and irreversibly to Aβ sheets and allows their detection under light microscopy. Furthermore, post-mortem immunostaining of microglia with the ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1 (IBA1) marker and additional processing for transmission electron microscopy allowed the study of microglia at different proximities to the plaques. Our ultrastructural analyses revealed significant differences in phagocytic activities and morphological features. Microglial cell bodies in APP-PS1 were significantly larger in area and perimeter compared to wild-type controls and displayed signs of stress and decreased phagocytic activity. These signs of stress and impaired phagocytosis were also found in microglial processes in the APP-PS1 samples. Additionally, microglia showed diverse morphological phenotypes and physiological cell reactions dependent on their proximity to plaques. Microglial cell bodies near plaques were larger in area and perimeter compared to wild-type controls and other APP-PS1 regions located farther from plaques. Microglia near plaques were more were more likely to contain Aβ and less likely to contain or encircle neuronal elements. Also, they presented signs of stress characterized by darkened cell bodies and dilated endoplasmic reticulum. All these findings define the drastic changes that are taking place at ultrastructural level in the brain in response to Aβ deposition.
Document Type: Mémoire de maîtrise
Issue Date: 2019
Open Access Date: 10 July 2019
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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