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Front Behav Neurosci. 2022;16:1033975.







This work was funded by The Jackson Laboratory Director’s Innovation Fund and the NIA grant awards R01AG057914 and R61NS115129.


In human Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients and AD mouse models, both differential pre-disease brain features and differential disease-associated memory decline are observed, suggesting that certain neurological features may protect against AD-related cognitive decline. The combination of these features is known as brain reserve, and understanding the genetic underpinnings of brain reserve may advance AD treatment in genetically diverse human populations. One potential source of brain reserve is brain microstructure, which is genetically influenced and can be measured with diffusion MRI (dMRI). To investigate variation of dMRI metrics in pre-disease-onset, genetically diverse AD mouse models, we utilized a population of genetically distinct AD mice produced by crossing the 5XFAD transgenic mouse model of AD to 3 inbred strains (C57BL/6J, DBA/2J, FVB/NJ) and two wild-derived strains (CAST/EiJ, WSB/EiJ). At 3 months of age, these mice underwent diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) to probe neural microanatomy in 83 regions of interest (ROIs). At 5 months of age, these mice underwent contextual fear conditioning (CFC). Strain had a significant effect on dMRI measures in most ROIs tested, while far fewer effects of sex, sex*strain interactions, or strain*sex*5XFAD genotype interactions were observed. A main effect of 5XFAD genotype was observed in only 1 ROI, suggesting that the 5XFAD transgene does not strongly disrupt neural development or microstructure of mice in early adulthood. Strain also explained the most variance in mouse baseline motor activity and long-term fear memory. Additionally, significant effects of sex and strain*sex interaction were observed on baseline motor activity, and significant strain*sex and sex*5XFAD genotype interactions were observed on long-term memory. We are the first to study the genetic influences of brain microanatomy in genetically diverse AD mice. Thus, we demonstrated that strain is the primary factor influencing brain microstructure in young adult AD mice and that neural development and early adult microstructure are not strongly altered by the 5XFAD transgene. We also demonstrated that strain, sex, and 5XFAD genotype interact to influence memory in genetically diverse adult mice. Our results support the usefulness of the 5XFAD mouse model and convey strong relationships between natural genetic variation, brain microstructure, and memory.


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