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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Nov 7;97(23):12822-7.

Presenilin-1 regulates the neuronal threshold to excitotoxicity both physiologically and pathologically.

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Schering-Plough Research Institute, Department of Central Nervous System/Cardiovascular Research, San Raffaele Science Park, Milan, Italy.


A direct pathophysiological role of Familial Alzheimer's Disease (FAD)-associated Presenilin 1 (PS1) mutations in neuronal vulnerability remains a controversial matter. We evaluated the relationship between PS1 and excitotoxicity in four different experimental models of neurotoxicity by using primary neurons from (i) transgenic (tg) mice overexpressing a human FAD-linked PS1 variant (L286V mutation), (ii) tg mice overexpressing human wild-type (wt) PS1, (iii) PS1 knockout mice, and (iv) wt mice in which PS1 gene expression was knocked down by antisense treatment. We found that primary neurons overexpressing mutated PS1 showed an increased vulnerability to both excitotoxic and hypoxic-hypoglycemic damage when compared with neurons obtained from either mice overexpressing human wt PS1 or in wt mice. In addition, reduced excitotoxic damage was obtained in neurons in which PS1 expression was absent or diminished. Data obtained in in vivo experimental models of excitotoxicity partially supported the in vitro observations. Accelerated neuronal death was demonstrated in the hippocampus of mice overexpressing mutated PS1 after peripheral administration of kainic acid in comparison with wt animals. However, measurement of the infarct volume after middle cerebral artery occlusion did not show significant difference between the two animal groups. The results altogether suggest that expression of FAD-linked PS1 variants increases the vulnerability of neurons to a specific type of damage in which excitotoxicity plays a relevant role. In addition, they support the view that reduction of endogenous PS1 expression results in neuroprotection.

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