Astrocytes Infected with Chlamydia pneumonia Alter Amyloid Processing Implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease

Zein Al-Atrache, Ahmad Cader, Susan Hingley, Denah Appelt

Research output: Other contribution


Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disease whose pathogenesis centers around the abnormal processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP) by proteases, resulting in the formation of neuritic plaques composed of toxic, insoluble fragments of amyloid protein (Aβ), including Aβ1-40 and Aβ1-42. Previously, our laboratory identified Chlamydia pneumoniae (Cpn) in autopsied sporadic AD brains. Additionally, an infection based animal model was developed using BALB/c mice that were intranasally inoculated with Cpn, in which the deposition of amyloid was consistent with that observed in the human AD brain. These studies have led to the pathogen hypothesis of AD that implicates Cpn as a trigger for the cleavage of APP into Aβ1-40 and Aβ1-42. Objective: Several studies have demonstrated the presence of astrocytes surrounding neuritic plaques within the AD brain; therefore, we speculate that astrocytes may be specifically involved in the pathological processes leading to Aβ deposition. This investigation addresses if an in vitro Cpn infection of human astrocytes affects processing of the ß amyloid precursor protein (ßAPP) and the enzyme ß APP cleaving enzyme-1 (BACE1), a type 1 transmembrane aspartyl protease directly involved in the processing of APP to Aβ and implicated in numerous neurodegenerative diseases, such as traumatic brain injury. Methods: Human astrocytes (CCF-STTG1) were infected in vitro with the respiratory strain AR39 Cpn (MOI=1). Analysis of protein levels for Aβ and the enzyme BACE1 post-infection was detected by immunocytochemistry and captured with the Olympus Confocal FV1000 microscope. Results: Amyloid processing in infected astrocytes was altered relative to that of uninfected astrocytes. BACE1 immunolabeling appeared more diffuse in the infected astrocytes as compared to membrane-localized BACE1 in the uninfected astrocytes. Conclusions: Neurons have been presumed to be the primary source of beta-amyloid peptides in AD brains; however, when astrocytes are activated, as occurs during infection with Cpn, astrocytic beta-amyloid generation may contribute to amyloid plaque formation. These data imply that infection of human astrocytes with Cpn affects the processing of ßAPP through altering the localization of BACE1 protein from the membrane to the cytoplasm. These data suggest an activation of BACE1 in the processing of amyloid by astrocytes as a major contributor to the neurotoxic amyloid deposition linked to pathology observed in AD.

Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - May 13 2015


  • Medicine and Health Sciences

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