A noradrenergic lesion exacerbates neurodegeneration in a down syndrome mouse model

Jason Lockrow, Heather Boger, Greg Gerhardt, Gary Aston-Jones, David Bachman, Ann Charlotte Granholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Individuals with Down syndrome (DS) acquire Alzheimer's-like dementia (AD) and associated neuropathology earlier and at significantly greater rates than age-matched normosomic individuals. However, biological mechanisms have not been discovered and there is currently limited therapy for either DS- or AD-related dementia. Segmental trisomy 16 (Ts65Dn) mice provide a useful model for many of the degenerative changes which occur with age in DS including cognitive deficits, neuroinflammation, and degeneration of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. Loss of noradrenergic locus coeruleus (LC) neurons is an early event in AD and in DS, and may contribute to the neuropathology. We report that Ts65Dn mice exhibit progressive loss of norepinephrine (NE) phenotype in LC neurons. In order to determine whether LC degeneration contributes to memory loss and neurodegeneration in Ts65Dn mice, we administered the noradrenergic neurotoxin N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine (DSP-4; 2 doses of 50 mg/kg, i.p.) to Ts65Dn mice at four months of age, prior to working memory loss. At eight months of age, Ts65Dn mice treated with DSP-4 exhibited an 80% reduction in hippocampal NE, coupled with a marked increase in hippocampal neuroinflammation. Noradrenergic depletion also resulted in accelerated cholinergic neuron degeneration and a further impairment of memory function in Ts65Dn mice. In contrast, DSP-4 had minimal effects on normosomic littermates, suggesting a disease-modulated vulnerability to NE loss in the DS mouse model. These data suggest that noradrenergic degeneration may play a role in the progressive memory loss, neuroinflammation, and cholinergic loss occurring in DS individuals, providing a possible therapeutic avenue for future clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-489
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Down syndrome
  • cholinergic neurons
  • cytokines
  • hippocampus
  • memory
  • neuroinflammation
  • neurotoxins
  • noradrenergic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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