The H63D variant of the hemochromatosis (HFE) gene, when expressed in carriers of the apolipoprotein E4 allele, is implicated as a risk factor for earlier onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD). We tested the hypothesis that like expression of apolipoprotein E4, expression of H63D-HFE disrupts cholesterol metabolism contributing to an increase in neurodegeneration and memory deficits. Analysis of SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells transfected to stably express either wild type- (WT) or H63D-HFE indicated about a 50% reduction in cholesterol content in cells expressing H63D-HFE. This was accompanied by a significant decrease in expression of 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA reductase, and a significant increase in expression of cholesterol 24-hydroxylase. Consistent with these studies, H67D-HFE (orthologous to human H63D-HFE) knock-in mice, showed a greater age dependent decline in brain cholesterol than WT-HFE animals and changes in expression of proteins regulating cholesterol metabolism. Brains of aged H67D-HFE mice also exhibited a significant decrease in expression of synapse proteins and a significant increase in caspase-3 expression relative to WT-HFE controls. H67D-HFE mice also had a greater reduction in brain volume and poorer recognition and spatial memory than WT-HFE mice, symptoms associated with AD. These results indicate that the alterations in cholesterol metabolism associated with expression of H63D-HFE may contribute to the development of AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1511.e1-1511.e12
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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