Insulin resistance, oxidative stress and mitochondrial defects in Ts65dn mice brain: A harmful synergistic path in down syndrome

Chiara Lanzillotta, Antonella Tramutola, Graziella Di Giacomo, Federico Marini, D. Allan Butterfield, Fabio Di Domenico, Marzia Perluigi, Eugenio Barone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Dysregulation of brain insulin signaling with reduced downstream neuronal survival and plasticity mechanisms are fundamental abnormalities observed in Alzheimer disease (AD). This phenomenon, known as brain insulin resistance, is associated with poor cognitive performance and is driven by the inhibition of IRS1. Since Down syndrome (DS) and AD neuropathology share many common features, we investigated metabolic aspects of neurodegeneration in DS and whether they contribute to early onset AD in DS. We evaluated levels and activation of proteins belonging to the insulin signaling pathway (IR, IRS1, BVR-A, MAPK, PTEN, Akt, GSK3β, PKCζ, AS160, GLUT4) in the frontal cortex of Ts65dn (DS model) (n = 5–6/group) and euploid mice (n = 6/group) at different ages (1, 3, 9 and 18 months). Furthermore, we analyzed whether changes of brain insulin signaling were associated with alterations of: (i) proteins regulating brain energy metabolism (mitochondrial complexes, hexokinase-II, Sirt1); (ii) oxidative stress (OS) markers (iii) APP cleavage; and (iv) proteins mediating synaptic plasticity mechanisms (PSD95, syntaxin-1 and BDNF). Ts65dn mice showed an overall impairment of the above-mentioned pathways, mainly characterized by defects of proteins activation state. Such alterations start early in life (at 1 month, during brain maturation). In particular, accumulation of inhibited IRS1, together with the uncoupling among the proteins downstream from IRS1 (brain insulin resistance), characterize Ts65dn mice. Furthermore, reduced levels of mitochondrial complexes and Sirt1, as well as increased indices of OS also were observed. These alterations precede the accumulation of APP-C99 in Ts65dn mice. Tellingly, oxidative stress levels were negatively associated with IR, IRS1 and AS160 activation as well as mitochondrial complexes levels in Ts65dn mice, suggesting a role for oxidative stress in the observed alterations. We propose that a close link exists among brain insulin resistance, mitochondrial defects and OS that contributes to brain dysfunctions observed in DS, likely favoring the development of AD in DS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-170
Number of pages19
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Brain development
  • Brain insulin resistance
  • Down syndrome
  • Intellectual disability
  • Mitochondria
  • Oxidative stress
  • Trisomy 21

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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