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Role of astrocytic serine in learning and memory and its implications in Alzheimer's disease

From 6/28/2018 to 6/28/2018
CEA Paris-Saclay, établissement de Fontenay-aux-Roses

PhD Student: Marianne Maugard


Memory loss is among the first symptoms reported by patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  AD is characterized by extracellular amyloid plaques and intracellular aggregations of tau. A decrease of brain glucose metabolism has also been described in the brain of AD patients. Since this decrease appears decades before memory loss, we hypothesize that metabolic deficits could directly contribute to AD physiopathology. To understand the mechanisms linking brain metabolism and synaptic activity, we proposed to study the production of L-serine, a signaling molecule whose de novo synthesis diverts part of the glycolytic flux. L-serine is the precursor of D-serine, a co-agonist of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDA-R) that is required to maintain long term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic activity in the hippocampus. Since both L- and D-serine are formed through the activity of the Phosphorylated Pathway that diverts part of the glycolytic flux, any metabolic deficits may impact synaptic activity. 

We developed a model of conditional Phgdh deletion, the first enzyme of the phosphorylated pathway, by stereotaxically injecting Adeno-Associated Vectors allowing the expression of Cre recombinase in the hippocampus of Phgdh(flox/flox) mice, a mice strain with loxP sites flanking exons 4 and 5 of Phgdh gene. We validated this model showing that Phgdh expression and D-serine level are decreased by 60% in the hippocampus of injected mice. We performed electrophysiological recordings and showed that LTP is significantly reduced in mice injected with Cre recombinase. Those mice also show long term memory deficits in the Morris Water Maze test. Those deficits are restored by chronically feeding Cre injected mice with a diet enriched in L-serine indicating that serine biosynthesis is necessary and sufficient for synaptic plasticity and long term memory.

To assess whether this pathway may be involved in AD pathogenesis, we quantified the expression of several enzymes of the serine biosynthesis pathway in human brain samples and found major changes in AD patients even at intermediate stages. To further investigate this hypothesis, we used 3xTg-AD mice, a mouse model for AD showing deficits in brain metabolism, synaptic activity and cognition. LTP deficits in 3xTg mice are restored by acute supplementation of L- or D-serine on hippocampal slices. We show that chronic administration of D-serine restores long term spatial memory. It suggests that serine biosynthesis is an important pathway in AD.

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room 104, building 56 (1st floor)

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