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- Mechanisms of apoptotic cell death of lymphocytes in aging and in Alzheimer's disease (2001)
- Aging and age-related diseases are becoming more and more important for our society and our health care system. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a disorder that destroys some parts of the brain and is characterized by global cognitive decline including a progressive irreversible loss of memory, orientation, and reasoning. “Healthy aging”, therefore, is one of the major aims for modern medicine. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, plays an important role for example in fetal development, as well as for learning processes. T-lymphocytes usually undergo apoptosis in order to terminate an acute inflammation. The aim of this thesis was to explore the changes in the apoptotic mechanism of peripheral lymphocytes from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients in contrast to physiological aging. The experiments were conducted with lymphocytes of healthy volunteers of different ages, AD patients and young and aged mice. Moreover, transgenic mice carrying familiar AD-related mutations were examined. The aging study of peripheral cells of ‘healthy’-aged volunteers revealed an age-related increase of basal apoptosis. In addition, spontaneous apoptosis as well as apoptosis induced by oxidative stress (ROS) or by Fas engagement were enhanced in aging. A closer look at the subcellular basis of the lymphocytes (e.g. B-, NK-, CD4+-, and CD8+-T cells) determined that all lymphocyte subsets were affected by aging. Therefore, it could be concluded that the regulation of apoptosis is generally impaired in lymphocytes of aged persons. The increased susceptibility to oxidative stress supports the ‘Free radical theory of aging’ that claims the radicals to be the cause for the aging-process. In mice an increase of basal, spontaneous and ROS-induced apoptosis was detected in T cells from the spleen, as well. An oral treatment over two weeks with the Ginkgo biloba extract EGb761 showed a clear reduction of ROS-induced apoptosis in the treated group. Interestingly, basal and spontaneous apoptosis, e.g. physiological apoptosis, were not effected by the plant extract. This is an important benefit for therapy since physiological apoptosis has a great relevance in the elimination of cancer-cells for example. In conclusion, the antidementive drug EGb761 reduces specifically ROS-induced apoptosis that a plays an important role in aging as shown in this thesis. Based on the data found in healthy aging, lymphocytes from AD patients were assessed for apoptosis. The cells show enhanced levels of basal, spontaneous, and Fas-induced apoptosis. In subsequent experiments it was demonstrated that mainly the T cells were responsible for the findings. However, the NK-cells provided an important impact as well. In concordance with AD-affected neurons, peripheral lymphocytes of AD patients show clear signs of apoptotic cell death. In addition, basal apoptosis of T cells and the CD4/CD8-ratio showed a correlation with the severity of the dementia. Therefore, it could be speculated that apoptosis is due to activation-induced cell death (AICD) that occurs in acute and chronic activation of adaptive immunity. In AD there is a chronic neuroinflammation in the CNS triggering degeneration of neural tissue. In order to explore this, the experimental model of lymphocyte’s activation was established in healthy aging first. The study included the detection of various events of lymphocyte’s activation on the basis of the T cell subsets (CD4+ and CD8+). The inducibility to mitogenic stimulation clearly decreased in both subsets in aging. In contrast, T lymphocytes from AD patients showed an enhanced activation subsequent to mitogenic stimulation compared with age-matched nondemented persons. Only proliferation of CD8+ T cells was clearly reduced in AD. This data could be clues that an increased generation of memory T cells due to chronic neuroinflammation might be evident in AD. Memory T lymphocytes show increased inducibility upon mitogenic activation. Interestingly, CD8+ memory T cells display decreased prolifertive capacity. Due to activation, cells die by apoptosis later on. It could be concluded that AD patients display an increased amount of memory T cells compared to controls. The data implicate that there could be a cross talk between inflammatory within the brain and inflammatory cells of the periphery. This is an interesting point since the brain used to be assumed as immune-privileged zone. According to the experiment, the information of the diseased brain is transferred to white blood cells. The connection of those two compartments might raise the opportunity to observe and probably to influence easily not-accessible regions like the brain. Transgenic mice carrying mutations in familiar AD-relevant genes (Amyloid-Precursor-Protein, Presenilin-1, respectively) displayed enhanced levels of apoptotic T cells from the spleen, as well. It seems that those mutated proteins influence the regulation of apoptosis. Probably, they are involved in the increased cell death of T- and NK-cells, as well. Animals overexpressing Presenilin-1 showed reduced levels of apoptotic cell death. It was demonstrated with molecuar biology tools that Presenilin-1, processed during apoptosis, has an anti-apoptotic effect.