Apolipoprotein E (APOE), one of the primary lipoproteins in the brain has three isoforms in humans namely APOE2, APOE3, and APOE4. APOE4 is the most well-established risk factor increasing the pre-disposition for Alzheimer’s disease. The presence of the APOE4 allele alone is shown to cause synaptic defects in neurons and recent studies have identified multiple pathways directly influenced by APOE4. However, the mechanisms underlying APOE4 induced synaptic dysfunction remain elusive. Here, we report that the acute exposure of primary cortical neurons to APOE4 leads to a significant decrease in global protein synthesis. APOE4 treatment also abrogates the NMDA mediated translation response indicating an impairment of synaptic signaling. Importantly, we demonstrate that both APOE3 and APOE4 generate a distinct translation response which is closely linked to their respective calcium signature. Acute exposure to APOE3 causes a short burst of calcium through NMDARs leading to an initial decrease in protein synthesis which quickly recovers. Contrarily, APOE4 leads to a sustained increase in calcium levels by activating both NMDARs and L-VGCCs, thereby causing sustained translation inhibition through eEF2 phosphorylation, which in turn disrupts NMDAR response. Thus, we show that APOE4 affects basal and activity mediated protein synthesis response in neurons by affecting calcium homeostasis. We propose this as a possible mechanism to explain the synaptic dysfunction caused by APOE4.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience