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Keywords:

  • Alzheimer's disease;
  • apolipoprotein E;
  • blood–brain barrier;
  • docosahexaenoic acid;
  • long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

Abstract

Thumbnail image of graphical abstract

Benefits on cognition from docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22 : 6 n-3) intake are absent in humans carrying apolipoprotein E ε4 allele (APOE4), the most important genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). To test the hypothesis that carrying APOE4 impairs DHA distribution, we evaluated plasma and brain fatty acid profiles and uptake of [14C]-DHA using in situ cerebral perfusion through the blood–brain barrier in 4- and 13-month-old male and female APOE-targeted replacement mice (APOE2, APOE3, and APOE4), fed with a DHA-depleted diet. Cortical and plasma DHA were 9% lower and 34% higher in APOE4 compared to APOE2 mice, respectively. Brain uptake of [14C]-DHA was 24% lower in APOE4 versus APOE2 mice. A significant relationship was established between DHA and apoE concentrations in the cortex of mice (r2 = 0.21) and AD patients (r2 = 0.32). Altogether, our results suggest that lower brain uptake of DHA in APOE4 than in APOE2 mice may limit the accumulation of DHA in cerebral tissues. These data provide a mechanistic explanation for the lack of benefit of DHA in APOE4 carriers on cognitive function and the risk of AD.

Using human APOE2, 3, and 4 isoform-specific transgenic mice, we found a lower brain uptake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in APOE4 than in APOE2 mice that may limit the biodistribution of DHA in cerebral tissues. These data provide a mechanistic explanation for the lack of benefit of DHA in APOE4 carriers on cognitive function and the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD).