The toxic conformer of amyloid β-protein (Aβ) ending at 42 (Aβ42), which contains a unique turn conformation at amino acid residue positions 22 and 23 and tends to form oligomers that are neurotoxic, was reported to play a critical role in the pathomechanisms of Alzheimer's disease (AD), in which diabetes mellitus (DM)-like mechanisms are also suggested to be operative. It remains to be established whether the attenuation of insulin signaling is involved in an increase of toxic Aβ42 conformer levels. The present study investigated the association between impaired insulin metabolism and formation of toxic Aβ42 conformers in the brains of an AD mouse model. In particular, we studied whether insulin deficiency or resistance affected the formation of toxic Aβ42 conformers in vivo. We induced insulin deficiency and resistance in 3xTg-AD mice, a mouse AD model harboring two familial AD-mutant APP (KM670/671NL) and PS1 (M146 V) genes and a mutant TAU (P301L) gene, by streptozotocin (STZ) injection and a high fructose diet (HFuD), respectively. Cognitive impairment was significantly worsened by STZ injection but not by HFuD. Dot blot analysis revealed significant increases in total Aβ42 levels and the ratio of toxic Aβ42 conformer/total Aβ42 in STZ-treated mice compared with control and HFuD-fed mice. Immunostaining showed the accumulation of toxic Aβ42 conformers and hyper-phosphorylated tau protein (p-tau), which was more prominent in the cortical and hippocampal neurons of STZ-treated mice compared with HFuD-fed and control mice. HFuD-fed mice showed only a mild-to-moderate increase of these proteins compared with controls. Toxic Aβ42 conformers were co-localized with p-tau oligomers (Pearson's correlation coefficient = 0.62) in the hippocampus, indicating their co-aggregation. Toxic Aβ42 conformer levels were inversely correlated with pancreatic insulin secretion capacity as shown by fasting immunoreactive insulin levels in STZ-treated mice (correlation coefficient = −0.5879, p =.04441), but not HFuD-fed mice, suggesting a decrease in serum insulin levels correlates with toxic Aβ42 conformer formation. Levels of p-Akt and phosphorylated glycogen synthase kinase-3β measured by a homogeneous time-resolved fluorescence assay were significantly lower in STZ-treated mice than in HFuD-fed mice, suggesting a greater inhibition of brain insulin signaling by STZ than HFuD, although both levels were significantly decreased in these groups compared with controls. Iba1-positive and NOS2-positive areas in the cortex and hippocampus were significantly increased in STZ-treated mice and to a lesser extent in HFuD-fed mice compared with controls. These findings suggest that insulin deficiency rather than insulin resistance and the resultant impairment of brain insulin signaling facilitates the formation of toxic Aβ42 conformer and its co-aggregation with p-tau oligomers, and that insulin deficiency is an important pathogenic factor in the progression of AD.
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