Open Access Research article

Clustering of transcriptional profiles identifies changes to insulin signaling as an early event in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

Harriet M Jackson1, Ileana Soto1, Leah C Graham12, Gregory W Carter1 and Gareth R Howell12*

Author Affiliations

1 The Jackson Laboratory, 600 Main Street, Bar Harbor, Maine 04609, USA

2 School of Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, USA

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:831  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-831

Published: 25 November 2013

Abstract

Background

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 35 million people worldwide but there is no known cure. Age is the strongest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease but it is not clear how age-related changes impact the disease. Here, we used a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease to identify age-specific changes that occur prior to and at the onset of traditional Alzheimer-related phenotypes including amyloid plaque formation. To identify these early events we used transcriptional profiling of mouse brains combined with computational approaches including singular value decomposition and hierarchical clustering.

Results

Our study identifies three key events in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. First, the most important drivers of Alzheimer’s disease onset in these mice are age-specific changes. These include perturbations of the ribosome and oxidative phosphorylation pathways. Second, the earliest detectable disease-specific changes occur to genes commonly associated with the hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary (HPA) axis. These include the down-regulation of genes relating to metabolism, depression and appetite. Finally, insulin signaling, in particular the down-regulation of the insulin receptor substrate 4 (Irs4) gene, may be an important event in the transition from age-related changes to Alzheimer’s disease specific-changes.

Conclusion

A combination of transcriptional profiling combined with computational analyses has uncovered novel features relevant to Alzheimer’s disease in a widely used mouse model and offers avenues for further exploration into early stages of AD.