Cerebrovascular Senescence Is Associated With Tau Pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease

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Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is associated with neuropathological changes, including aggregation of tau neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and amyloid-beta plaques. Mounting evidence indicates that vascular dysfunction also plays a key role in the pathogenesis and progression of AD, in part through endothelial dysfunction. Based on findings in animal models that tau pathology induces vascular abnormalities and cellular senescence, we hypothesized that tau pathology in the human AD brain leads to vascular senescence. To explore this hypothesis, we isolated intact microvessels from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC, BA9) from 16 subjects with advanced Braak stages (Braak V/VI, B3) and 12 control subjects (Braak 0/I/II, B1), and quantified expression of 42 genes associated with senescence, cell adhesion, and various endothelial cell functions. Genes associated with endothelial senescence and leukocyte adhesion, including SERPINE1 (PAI-1), CXCL8 (IL8), CXCL1, CXCL2, ICAM-2, and TIE1, were significantly upregulated in B3 microvessels after adjusting for sex and cerebrovascular pathology. In particular, the senescence-associated secretory phenotype genes SERPINE1 and CXCL8 were upregulated by more than 2-fold in B3 microvessels after adjusting for sex, cerebrovascular pathology, and age at death. Protein quantification data from longitudinal plasma samples for a subset of 13 (n = 9 B3, n = 4 B1) subjects showed no significant differences in plasma senescence or adhesion-associated protein levels, suggesting that these changes were not associated with systemic vascular alterations. Future investigations of senescence biomarkers in both the peripheral and cortical vasculature could further elucidate links between tau pathology and vascular changes in human AD.

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