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Open Access Research

Contribution of complement activation pathways to neuropathology differs among mouse models of Alzheimer's disease

Maria I Fonseca1, Shu-Hui Chu1, Alisia M Berci1, Marie E Benoit1, Douglas G Peters2, Yuko Kimura3 and Andrea J Tenner124*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, USA

2 Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, USA

3 Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

4 Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, 92697, USA

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2011, 8:4  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-8-4

Published: 15 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Complement proteins and activation products have been found associated with neuropathology in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Recently, a C5a receptor antagonist was shown to suppress neuropathology in two murine models of AD, Tg2576 and 3xTg. Previously, a genetic deficiency of C1q in the Tg2576 mouse model showed an accumulation of fibrillar plaques similar to the complement sufficient Tg2576, but reactive glia were significantly decreased and neuronal integrity was improved suggesting detrimental consequences for complement activation in AD. The goal of this study was to define the role of the classical complement activation pathway in the progression of pathology in the 3xTg mouse that develops tangles in addition to fibrillar plaques (more closely reflecting human AD pathology) and to assess the influence of complement in a model of AD with a higher level of complement hemolytic activity.

Methods

3xTg mice deficient in C1q (3xTgQ-/-) were generated, and both 3xTg and 3xTgQ-/- were backcrossed to the BUB mouse strain which has higher in vitro hemolytic complement activity. Mice were aged and perfused, and brain sections stained for pathological markers or analyzed for proinflammatory marker expression.

Results

3xTgQ-/- mice showed similar amounts of fibrillar amyloid, reactive glia and hyperphosphorylated tau as the C1q-sufficient 3xTg at the ages analyzed. However, 3xTg and 3xTgQ-/- on the BUB background developed pathology earlier than on the original 3xTg background, although the presence of C1q had no effect on neuropathological and pro-inflammatory markers. In contrast to that seen in other transgenic models of AD, C1q, C4 and C3 immunoreactivity was undetectable on the plaques of 3xTg in any background, although C3 was associated with reactive astrocytes surrounding the plaques. Importantly, properdin a component of the alternative complement pathway was associated with plaques in all models.

Conclusions

In contrast to previously investigated transgenic models of AD, development of neuropathology in 3xTg mice, which progresses much slower than other murine models, may not be influenced by fibrillar amyloid mediated activation of the classical complement pathway, suggesting that the alternative complement pathway activation or a C3-independent cleavage of C5 could account for the detrimental effects in these mice that are prevented by the C5a receptor antagonist. Furthermore, the paucity of complement activation may be a factor in the slower kinetics of progression of pathology in the 3xTg model of this disease.