Neurochem Res. 2013 Oct;38(10):2114-23.

Cortical metabolic deficits in a rat model of cholinergic basal forebrain degeneration.

Gelfo F, Petrosini L, Graziano A, De Bartolo P, Burello L, Vitale E, Polverino A, Iuliano A, Sorrentino G, Mandolesi L.

IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia, Via del Fosso di Fiorano, 64, 00143, Rome, Italy,



Evidence indicates that the degeneration of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons may represent an important factor underlying the progressive cognitive decline characterizing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the nature of the relationship between cholinergic depletion and AD is not fully elucidated. This study aimed at clarifying some aspects of the relation existing between deficits in cerebral energy metabolism and degeneration of cholinergic system in AD, by investigating the neuronal metabolic activity of several cortical areas after depletion of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. In cholinergically depleted rats, we evaluated the neuronal metabolic activity by assaying cytochrome oxidase (CO) activity in frontal, parietal and posterior parietal cortices at four different time-points after unilateral injection of 192 IgG-saporin in the nucleus basalis magnocellularis. Unilateral depletion of cholinergic cells in the basal forebrain induced a bilateral decrease of metabolic activity in all the analyzed areas. Frontal and parietal cortices showed decreased metabolic activity even 3 days after the lesion, when the cholinergic degeneration was still incomplete. In posterior parietal cortex metabolic activity decreased only 7 days after the lesion. The possible molecular mechanisms underlying these findings were also investigated. Real-time PCR showed an increase of CO mRNA levels at 3, 7 and 15 days after the lesion both in frontal and parietal cortices, followed by normalization at 30 days. Western Blot analysis did not show any change in CO protein levels at any time-point after the lesion. Our findings support a link between metabolic deficit and cholinergic hypofunctionality characterizing AD pathology. The present model of cholinergic hypofunctionality provides a useful means to study the complex mechanisms linking two fundamental and interrelated phenomena characterizing AD from the early stages.

PMID: 23925861

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