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Neurobiol Dis. 2005 Mar;18(2):390-8.

Human apoE4-targeted replacement mice display synaptic deficits in the absence of neuropathology.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


The human APOE*4 allele is associated with an early age of onset and increased risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Long before the onset of AD, cognitive deficits can be identified in APOE*4 carriers. We examined neurons in the lateral amygdala of young apolipoprotein (apo) E3 and apoE4 targeted replacement (TR) mice for changes in synaptic integrity. ApoE4 mice displayed significantly reduced excitatory synaptic transmission and dendritic arborization. Despite these changes there were no signs of gliosis, amyloid deposition or neurofibrillary tangles in these mice. To our knowledge, this is the first study to suggest that cognitive deficits in APOE*4 carriers are due to inherent defects in synaptic function that appear prior to any age-dependent markers of neuropathology.

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