Apolipoprotein E (apoE) plays an important role in the response to central nervous system injury. The e4 allele of apoE and amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) are associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and may be central to the pathogenesis of this disorder. Recent studies demonstrate evidence for neurodegeneration and increased lipid peroxidation in transgenic mice lacking apoE (KO). In the current study, synaptosomes were prepared from apoE KO mice to determine the role of apoE in synaptic membrane structure and to determine susceptibility to oxidative damage by Aβ(1-40). ApoE KO mice exhibited structural modifications to lipid and protein components of synaptosomal membranes as determined by electron paramagnetic resonance in conjunction with lipid- and protein- specific spin labels. Incubation with 5 μM Aβ(1-40) resulted in more severe oxidative modifications to proteins and lipids in apoE KO synaptosomes as measured by protein carbonyls, an index of protein oxidation, and TBARs and protein-bound 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE), markers of lipid oxidation. Together, these data support a role for apoE in the modulation of oxidative injury and in the maintenance of synaptic integrity and are discussed with reference to alterations in AD brain.
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