Environmental enrichment stimulates neurogenesis in apolipoprotein E3 and neuronal apoptosis in apolipoprotein E4 transgenic mice


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Daniel M. Michaelson, Department of Neurobiochemistry, The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.
E-mail: dmichael@post.tau.ac.il


Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with the activation of neurogenesis. The mechanisms underlying this crosstalk between neuronal death and birth and the extent to which it is affected by genetic risk factors of AD are not known. We employed transgenic mice expressing human apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4), the most prevalent genetic risk factor for AD, or expressing human apoE3 (an AD-benign allele), in order to examine the hypothesis that apoE4 tilts the balance between neurogenesis and neuronal cell death in favor of the latter. The results showed an isoform-specific increase in neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) under standard conditions in apoE4-transgenic mice. Environmental stimulation, which increases neurogenesis in the DG of apoE3-transgenic and wild-type mice, had the opposite effect on the apoE4 mice, where it triggered apoptosis while decreasing hippocampal neurogenesis. These effects were specific to the DG and were not observed in the subventricular zone, where neurogenesis was unaffected by either the apoE genotype or the environmental conditions. These in vivo findings demonstrate a linkage between neuronal apoptosis and the impaired neuronal plasticity and cognition of apoE4-transgenic mice, and suggest that similar interactions between apoE4 and environmental factors might occur in AD.