In Alzheimer's disease (AD), early deficits in learning and memory are a consequence of synaptic modification induced by toxic beta-amyloid oligomers (oAβ). To identify immediate molecular targets downstream of oAβ binding, we prepared synaptoneurosomes from prefrontal cortex of control and incipient AD (IAD) patients, and isolated mRNAs for comparison of gene expression. This novel approach concentrates synaptic mRNA, thereby increasing the ratio of synaptic to somal mRNA and allowing discrimination of expression changes in synaptically localized genes. In IAD patients, global measures of cognition declined with increasing levels of dimeric Aβ (dAβ). These patients also showed increased expression of neuroplasticity related genes, many encoding 3′UTR consensus sequences that regulate translation in the synapse. An increase in mRNA encoding the GluR2 subunit of the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid receptor (AMPAR) was paralleled by elevated expression of the corresponding protein in IAD. These results imply a functional impact on synaptic transmission as GluR2, if inserted, maintains the receptors in a low conductance state. Some overexpressed genes may induce early deficits in cognition and others compensatory mechanisms, providing targets for intervention to moderate the response to dAβ.
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