Cholinergic dysfunction and deposition of plaques containing amyloid ß-peptides (Aß) are two of the characteristics of Alzheimer's disease. Here, we combine APPswe/PS1dE9 (APP/PS1) mice with the cholinergic immunotoxin mu p75-saporin (SAP) to integrate partial basal forebrain cholinergic degeneration and the neuropathology of APP/PS1 mice. By 6 months of age, APP/PS1 mice and wild type littermates (Wt) received intracerebroventricular injection of 0.6 µg SAP (lesion) or PBS (sham). Two months following surgery, APP/PS1 mice treated with SAP were significantly impaired compared to sham treated APP/PS1 mice in a behavioural paradigm addressing working memory. Conversely, the performance of Wt mice was unaffected by SAP treatment. Choline acetyltransferase activity was reduced in the hippocampus and frontal cortex following SAP treatment. The selective effect of a mild SAP lesion in APP/PS1 mice was not due to a more extensive cholinergic degeneration since the reduction in choline acetyltransferase activity was similar following SAP treatment in APP/PS1 mice and Wt. Interestingly, plaque load was significantly increased in SAP treated APP/PS1 mice relative to sham lesioned APP/PS1 mice. Additionally, APP/PS1 mice treated with SAP showed a tendency towards an increased level of soluble and insoluble Aß1-40 and Aß1-42 measured in brain tissue homogenate. Our results suggest that the combination of cholinergic degeneration and Aß overexpression in the APP/PS1 mouse model results in cognitive decline and accelerated plaque burden. SAP treated APP/PS1 mice might thus constitute an improved model of Alzheimer's disease-like neuropathology and cognitive deficits compared to the conventional APP/PS1 model without selective removal of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons.
Behavioural Brain Research, 2013, Vol 240, Issue 1, p. 146-52