Increased mtDNA mutations with aging promotes amyloid accumulation and brain atrophy in the APP/Ld transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease

Lokesh Kukreja, Gregory C. Kujoth, Tomas A. Prolla, Fred Van Leuven, Robert Vassar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: The role of mitochondrial dysfunction has long been implicated in age-related brain pathology, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the mechanism by which mitochondrial dysfunction may cause neurodegeneration in AD is unclear. To model mitochondrial dysfunction in vivo, we utilized mice that harbor a knockin mutation that inactivates the proofreading function of mitochondrial DNA polymerase γ (PolgA D257A), so that these mice accumulate mitochondrial DNA mutations with age. PolgA D257A mice develop a myriad of mitochondrial bioenergetic defects and physical phenotypes that mimic premature ageing, with subsequent death around one year of age. Results: We crossed the D257A mice with a well-established transgenic AD mouse model (APP/Ld) that develops amyloid plaques. We hypothesized that mitochondrial dysfunction would affect Aβ synthesis and/or clearance, thus contributing to amyloidogenesis and triggering neurodegeneration. Initially, we discovered that Aβ42 levels along with Aβ42 plaque density were increased in D257A; APP/Ld bigenic mice compared to APP/Ld monogenic mice. Elevated Aβ production was not responsible for increased amyloid pathology, as levels of BACE1, PS1, C99, and C83 were unchanged in D257A; APP/Ld compared to APP/Ld mice. However, the levels of a major Aβ clearance enzyme, insulin degrading enzyme (IDE), were reduced in mice with the D257A mutation, suggesting this as mechanism for increased amyloid load. In the presence of the APP transgene, D257A mice also exhibited significant brain atrophy with apparent cortical thinning but no frank neuron loss. D257A; APP/Ld mice had increased levels of 17 kDa cleaved caspase-3 and p25, both indicative of neurodegeneration. Moreover, D257A; APP/Ld neurons appeared morphologically disrupted, with swollen and vacuolated nuclei. Conclusions: Overall, our results implicate synergism between the effects of the PolgA D257A mutation and Aβ in causing neurodegeneration. These findings provide insight into mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction that may contribute to the pathogenesis of AD via decreased clearance of Aβ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
JournalMolecular neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2 2014


  • APP/Ld
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid
  • Brain atrophy
  • Insulin degrading enzyme
  • Neurodegeneration
  • PolgA D257A
  • mitochondrial dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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