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Functional alterations of myeloid cells during the course of Alzheimer's disease

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Background: Neuroinflammation is a hallmark of neurodegenerative disease and a significant component of the pathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Patients present with extensive microgliosis along with elevated pro-inflammatory signaling in the central nervous system and periphery. However, the role of peripheral myeloid cells in mediating and influencing AD pathogenesis remains unresolved. Methods: Peripheral myeloid cells were isolated from peripheral blood of patients with prodromal AD (n = 44), mild AD dementia (n = 25), moderate/severe AD dementia (n = 28), and age-matched controls (n = 54). Patients were evaluated in the clinic for AD severity and categorized using Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale resulting in separation of patients into prodromal AD (CDR0.5) and advancing forms of AD dementia (mild-CDR1 and moderate/severe-CDR2/3). Separation of peripheral myeloid cells into mature monocytes or immature MDSCs permitted the delineation of population changes from flow cytometric analysis, RNA phenotype analysis, and functional studies using T cell suppression assays and monocyte suppression assays. Results: During stages of AD dementia (CDR1 and 2/3) peripheral myeloid cells increase their pro-inflammatory gene expression while at early stages of disease (prodromal AD - CDR0.5) pro-inflammatory gene expression is decreased. MDSCs are increased in prodromal AD compared with controls (16.81% vs 9.53%) and have markedly increased suppressive functions: 42.4% suppression of activated monocyte-produced IL-6 and 78.16% suppression of T cell proliferation. In AD dementia, MDSC populations are reduced with decreased suppression of monocyte IL-6 (5.22%) and T cell proliferation (37.61%); the reduced suppression coincides with increased pro-inflammatory signaling in AD dementia monocytes. Conclusions: Peripheral monocyte gene expression is pro-inflammatory throughout the course of AD, except at the earliest, prodromal stages when pro-inflammatory gene expression is suppressed. This monocyte biphasic response is associated with increased numbers and suppressive functions of MDSCs during the early stages and decreased numbers and suppressive functions in later stages of disease. Prolonging the early protective suppression and reversing the later loss of suppressive activity may offer a novel therapeutic strategy.




Thome, A. D., Faridar, A., Beers, D. R., Thonhoff, J. R., Zhao, W., Wen, S., … Appel, S. H. (2018). Functional alterations of myeloid cells during the course of Alzheimer’s disease. Molecular Neurodegeneration, 13(1).

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