Opposing effects of viral mediated brain expression of apolipoprotein E2 (apoE2) and apoE4 on apoE lipidation and Aβ metabolism in apoE4-targeted replacement mice

Jin Hu, Chia Chen Liu, Xiao Fen Chen, Yun Wu Zhang, Huaxi Xu, Guojun Bu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Background: Human apolipoprotein E (apoE) exists in three major isoforms: apoE2, apoE3 and apoE4. In the brain, apoE is produced mostly by astrocytes and transports cholesterol to neurons via apoE receptors. Among the gene alleles encoding the three isoforms, the APOE4 allele is the strongest genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD), whereas APOE2 is protective. ApoE4 confers a gain of toxic function, a loss of neuroprotective function or a combination of both in AD pathogenesis. Given that therapeutic impacts of modulating apoE expression may be isoform-dependent, we sought to investigate the relationship between overexpressing apoE isoform and apoE-related functions in apoE-targeted replacement (TR) mice. Specifically, apoE isoform expression driven by the astrocyte-specific glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) promoter was built into an adeno-associated virus serotype 8 (AAV8) vector and injected into the ventricles of postnatal day 2 (P2) apoE3-TR or apoE4-TR mice. Upon confirmation of apoE isoform expression, effects on apoE lipidation and the levels of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the brain were assessed. Results: AAV8-GFAP-apoE isoforms were specifically expressed in astrocytes throughout all brain regions, which led to overall increased apoE levels in the brain. Viral mediated overexpression of apoE4 in the apoE4-TR background increased poorly-lipidated apoE lipoprotein particles and decreased apoE-associated cholesterol in apoE4-TR mice. Conversely, apoE2 overexpression in apoE4-TR mice enhanced apoE lipidation and associated cholesterol. Furthermore, overexpression of apoE4 elevated the levels of endogenous Aβ, whereas apoE2 overexpression trended to lower endogenous Aβ. Conclusions: Overexpression of apoE isoforms induces differential effects in the apoE4-TR background: apoE4 decreases apoE lipidation and enhances Aβ accumulation, whereas apoE2 has the opposite effects. Our findings suggest that increasing apoE2 in APOE4 carriers is a beneficial strategy to treat AD, whereas increasing apoE4 in APOE4 carriers is likely harmful. We have also established novel methods to express apoE isoforms in mouse brain to study apoE-related pathways in AD and related dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalMolecular neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 5 2015


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • ApoE
  • ApoE-TR mice
  • Lipidation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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