Proteasome inhibition protects blood–brain barrier P-glycoprotein and lowers Aβ brain levels in an Alzheimer’s disease model

Milica Vulin, Yu Zhong, Bryan J. Maloney, Björn Bauer, Anika M.S. Hartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Loss of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) at the blood–brain barrier contributes to amyloid-β (Aβ) brain accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Using transgenic human amyloid precursor protein (hAPP)-overexpressing mice (Tg2576), we previously showed that Aβ triggers P-gp loss by activating the ubiquitin–proteasome pathway, which leads to P-gp degradation. Furthermore, we showed that inhibiting the ubiquitin-activating enzyme (E1) prevents P-gp loss and lowers Aβ accumulation in the brain of hAPP mice. Based on these data, we hypothesized that repurposing the FDA-approved proteasome inhibitor, bortezomib (Velcade®; BTZ), protects blood–brain barrier P-gp from degradation in hAPP mice in vivo. Methods: We treated hAPP mice with the proteasome inhibitor BTZ or a combination of BTZ with the P-gp inhibitor cyclosporin A (CSA) for 2 weeks. Vehicle-treated wild-type (WT) mice were used as a reference for normal P-gp protein expression and transport activity. In addition, we used the opioid receptor agonist loperamide as a P-gp substrate in tail flick assays to indirectly assess P-gp transport activity at the blood–brain barrier in vivo. We also determined P-gp protein expression by Western blotting, measured P-gp transport activity levels in isolated brain capillaries with live cell confocal imaging and assessed Aβ plasma and brain levels with ELISA. Results: We found that 2-week BTZ treatment of hAPP mice restored P-gp protein expression and transport activity in brain capillaries to levels found in WT mice. We also observed that hAPP mice displayed significant loperamide-induced central antinociception compared to WT mice indicating impaired P-gp transport activity at the blood–brain barrier of hAPP mice in vivo. Furthermore, BTZ treatment prevented loperamide-induced antinociception suggesting BTZ protected P-gp loss in hAPP mice. Further, BTZ-treated hAPP mice had lower Aβ40 and Aβ42 brain levels compared to vehicle-treated hAPP mice. Conclusions: Our data indicate that BTZ protects P-gp from proteasomal degradation in hAPP mice, which helps to reduce Aβ brain levels. Our data suggest that the proteasome system could be exploited for a novel therapeutic strategy in AD, particularly since increasing Aβ transport across the blood–brain barrier may prove an effective treatment for patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70
JournalFluids and Barriers of the CNS
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyloid beta
  • Blood–Brain Barrier
  • Clearance
  • P-glycoprotein
  • Ubiquitin–proteasome system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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