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J Neurosci. 2010 Apr 28;30(17):6058-71. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3956-09.2010.

Aging-related gene expression in hippocampus proper compared with dentate gyrus is selectively associated with metabolic syndrome variables in rhesus monkeys.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Biomedical Pharmacology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536, USA.


Age-dependent metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a well established risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but it also confers major risk for impaired cognition in normal aging or Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, little is known about the specific pathways mediating MetS-brain interactions. Here, we performed the first studies quantitatively linking MetS variables to aging changes in brain genome-wide expression and mitochondrial function. In six young adult and six aging female rhesus monkeys, we analyzed gene expression in two major hippocampal subdivisions critical for memory/cognitive function [hippocampus proper, or cornu ammonis (CA), and dentate gyrus (DG)]. Genes that changed with aging [aging-related genes (ARGs)] were identified in each region. Serum variables reflecting insulin resistance and dyslipidemia were used to construct a quantitative MetS index (MSI). This MSI increased with age and correlated negatively with hippocampal mitochondrial function (state III oxidation). More than 2000 ARGs were identified in CA and/or DG, in approximately equal numbers, but substantially more ARGs in CA than in DG were correlated selectively with the MSI. Pathways represented by MSI-correlated ARGs were determined from the Gene Ontology Database and literature. In particular, upregulated CA ARGs representing glucocorticoid receptor (GR), chromatin assembly/histone acetyltransferase, and inflammatory/immune pathways were closely associated with the MSI. These results suggest a novel model in which MetS is associated with upregulation of hippocampal GR-dependent transcription and epigenetic coactivators, contributing to decreased mitochondrial function and brain energetic dysregulation. In turn, these MSI-associated neuroenergetic changes may promote inflammation, neuronal vulnerability, and risk of cognitive impairment/AD.

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