Apolipoprotein E4 Reduction with Antisense Oligonucleotides Decreases Neurodegeneration in a Tauopathy Model

Alexandra Litvinchuk, Tien-Phat V Huynh, Yang Shi, Rosemary J Jackson, Mary B Finn, Melissa Manis, Caroline M Francis, Ainsley C Tran, Patrick M Sullivan, Jason D Ulrich, Bradley T Hyman, Tracy Cole, David M Holtzman
Annals of Neurology 2021, 89 (5): 952-966

OBJECTIVE: Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) genotype is the strongest genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease, with the ε4 allele increasing risk in a dose-dependent fashion. In addition to ApoE4 playing a crucial role in amyloid-β deposition, recent evidence suggests that it also plays an important role in tau pathology and tau-mediated neurodegeneration. It is not known, however, whether therapeutic reduction of ApoE4 would exert protective effects on tau-mediated neurodegeneration.

METHODS: Herein, we used antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) against human APOE to reduce ApoE4 levels in the P301S/ApoE4 mouse model of tauopathy. We treated P301S/ApoE4 mice with ApoE or control ASOs via intracerebroventricular injection at 6 and 7.5 months of age and performed brain pathological assessments at 9 months of age.

RESULTS: Our results indicate that treatment with ApoE ASOs reduced ApoE4 protein levels by ~50%, significantly protected against tau pathology and associated neurodegeneration, decreased neuroinflammation, and preserved synaptic density. These data were also corroborated by a significant reduction in levels of neurofilament light chain (NfL) protein in plasma of ASO-treated mice.

INTERPRETATION: We conclude that reducing ApoE4 levels should be explored further as a therapeutic approach for APOE4 carriers with tauopathy including Alzheimer's disease. ANN NEUROL 2021;89:952-966.

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