Author(s): Lombardi VR, Garca M, Cacabelos R
Several factors that increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) have already been identified. A correct evaluation of these may contribute to a better understanding of the etiology of the disease. The risk of developing AD definitely increases with (a) age, (b) head injuries, (c) family history of AD or Down syndrome, (d) sex (higher prevalence of AD in women), (e) vascular disease, (f) exposure to environmental toxins, (g) infectious processes, or (h) changes in immune function, and recent advances in molecular genetics have suggested that genetic predisposition (i) can be considered one of the most important risk factors in the development of AD. A significant increase in the number of amyloid plaques in AD patients with an apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE) allele has been observed and the results of several genetic studies indicate that the etiology of this neurodegenerative disease is associated with the presence of the allele E4 of ApoE. A potential source of damage in the AD brain is an altered response triggered by microglial activation, which is associated with amyloid plaques. It has become evident that a dysregulation of cytokine release appears within lesions of many types of brain disorders including infection, trauma, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases. Many studies have shown that microglia secrete both cytokines and cytotoxins and since reactive microglia appears in nearly every type of brain damage, it is likely that their secreted products ultimately help to determine the rate of damaged brain tissue. In this study, in vitro cell cultures were established to investigate the effect of different concentrations of human sera (2.5% and 10%) with specific ApoE genotypes from Alzheimer's and non-Alzheimer's subjects on ameboid and flat microglial cells obtained from neonatal rat hippocampi. Results show that a modulation in the proliferation and activation of microglial cells was obtained and that AD sera, mainly in the ApoE 3/4 and 4/4 genotype contain factor(s) which are able to induce morphological changes, as measured by an increase in the ameboid cell type. In addition, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II antigen expression, as measured by flow cytometric analysis, and interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) release as measured by enzyme linked immunoadsorbent assay (ELISA), in comparison with control groups and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-treated cells, clearly demonstrate a direct effect of ApoE 3/4 and 4/4 and/or an indirect effect mediated by the release of IL-1beta on microglia activation. These results strongly suggest that primary in vitro microglial cell cultures can be used as a screening model to test human sera as well as the effect of new potential drugs aimed at down-regulating microglia activation.