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Neurodegener Dis. 2004;1(1):29-37.

Hypocapnia induces caspase-3 activation and increases Abeta production.

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Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown 02129-4404, USA.



At least half of all cases of early onset (<60) familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD) are caused by any of over 150 mutations in three genes: the amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 (PS1), and presenilin 2 (PS2). Mutant forms of PS1 have been shown to sensitize cells to apoptotic cell death.


We investigated the effects of hypocapnia, a risk factor for both cognitive and neurodevelopment deficits, on caspase-3 activation, apoptosis, and amyloid beta-protein (Abeta) production, and assessed the influence of the PS1Delta9 FAD mutation on these effects.


For this purpose, we exposed stably transfected H4 human neuroglioma cells to conditions consistent with hypocapnia (PCO2<40 mm Hg) and hypocapnia plus hypoxia (PO2<21%).


Hypocapnia (20 mm Hg CO2 for 6 h) induced caspase-3 activation and apoptosis; the PS1Delta9 FAD mutation significantly potentiated these effects. Moreover, the combination of hypocapnia (20 mm Hg CO2) and hypoxia (5%O2) induced caspase-3 activation and apoptosis in a synergistic manner. Hypocapnia (5 and 20 mm Hg CO2 for 6 h) also led to an increased Abeta production.


The findings suggest that hypocapnia (e.g. during general anesthesia) could exacerbate AD neuropathogenesis.

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