King's College London

Research portal

Oxysterols present in Alzheimer's disease brain induce synaptotoxicity by activating astrocytes: A major role for lipocalin-2

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Erica Staurenghi, Valentina Cerrato, Paola Gamba, Gabriella Testa, Serena Giannelli, Valerio Leoni, Claudio Caccia, Annalisa Buffo, Wendy Noble, Beatriz Gomez Perez-Nievas, Gabriella Leonarduzzi

Original languageEnglish
Article number101837
JournalRedox Biology
PublishedFeb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work was supported by Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK-RF2014-2, ARUK-EG2013-B1, ARUK-PG2019A-004), the University of Turin (RILO 2019), and Compagnia di San Paolo (CST0167048). Erica Staurenghi was supported by Fondazione Adriano Buzzati-Traverso . Publisher Copyright: © 2020 The Authors Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Among Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain hallmarks, the presence of reactive astrocytes was demonstrated to correlate with neuronal loss and cognitive deficits. Evidence indeed supports the role of reactive astrocytes as mediators of changes in neurons, including synapses. However, the complexity and the outcomes of astrocyte reactivity are far from being completely elucidated. Another key role in AD pathogenesis is played by alterations in brain cholesterol metabolism. Oxysterols (cholesterol oxidation products) are crucial for brain cholesterol homeostasis, and we previously demonstrated that changes in the brain levels of various oxysterols correlate with AD progression. Moreover, oxysterols have been shown to contribute to various pathological mechanisms involved in AD pathogenesis. In order to deepen the role of oxysterols in AD, we investigated whether they could contribute to astrocyte reactivity, and consequently impact on neuronal health. Results showed that oxysterols present in mild or severe AD brains induce a clear morphological change in mouse primary astrocytes, accompanied by the upregulation of some reactive astrocyte markers, including lipocalin-2 (Lcn2). Moreover, astrocyte conditioned media analysis revealed a significant increase in the release of Lcn2, cytokines, and chemokines in response to oxysterols. A significant reduction of postsynaptic density protein 95 (PSD95) and a concurrent increase in cleaved caspase-3 protein levels have been demonstrated in neurons co-cultured with oxysterol-treated astrocytes, pointing out that mediators released by astrocytes have an impact on neurons. Among these mediators, Lcn2 has been demonstrated to play a major role on synapses, affecting neurite morphology and decreasing dendritic spine density. These data demonstrated that oxysterols present in the AD brain promote astrocyte reactivity, determining the release of several mediators that affect neuronal health and synapses. Lcn2 has been shown to exert a key role in mediating the synaptotoxic effect of oxysterol-treated astrocytes.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454