β-Secretase 1 (BACE1) is a key enzyme in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis that catalyses the amyloidogenic cleavage of amyloid precursor protein (APP). Recently, global Bace1 deletion was shown to protect against diet-induced obesity and diabetes, suggesting that BACE1 is a potential regulator of glucose homeostasis. Here, we investigated whether increased neuronal BACE1 is sufficient to alter systemic glucose metabolism, using a neuron-specific human BACE1 knockin mouse model (PLB4).
Glucose homeostasis and adiposity were determined by glucose tolerance tests and EchoMRI, lipid species were measured by quantitative lipidomics, and biochemical and molecular alterations were assessed by western blotting, quantitative PCR and ELISAs. Glucose uptake in the brain and upper body was measured via 18FDG-PET imaging.
Physiological and molecular analyses demonstrated that centrally expressed human BACE1 induced systemic glucose intolerance in mice from 4 months of age onward, alongside a fatty liver phenotype and impaired hepatic glycogen storage. This diabetic phenotype was associated with hypothalamic pathology, i.e. deregulation of the melanocortin system, and advanced endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress indicated by elevated central C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) signalling and hyperphosphorylation of its regulator eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α). In vivo 18FDG-PET imaging further confirmed brain glucose hypometabolism in these mice; this corresponded with altered neuronal insulin-related signalling, enhanced protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) and retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) levels, along with upregulation of the ribosomal protein and lipid translation machinery. Increased forebrain and plasma lipid accumulation (i.e. ceramides, triacylglycerols, phospholipids) was identified via lipidomics analysis.
Our data reveal that neuronal BACE1 is a key regulator of metabolic homeostasis and provide a potential mechanism for the high prevalence of metabolic disturbance in Alzheimer’s disease.
- neuronal BACE1
- glucose homeostasis
- ER stress
- insulin signalling