BACKGROUND: Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) are the defining pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Increasing the quantity of the O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) post-translational modification of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins slows neurodegeneration and blocks the formation of NFTs in a tauopathy mouse model. It remains unknown, however, if O-GlcNAc can influence the formation of amyloid plaques in the presence of tau pathology.

RESULTS: We treated double transgenic TAPP mice, which express both mutant human tau and amyloid precursor protein (APP), with a highly selective orally bioavailable inhibitor of the enzyme responsible for removing O-GlcNAc (OGA) to increase O-GlcNAc in the brain. We find that increased O-GlcNAc levels block cognitive decline in the TAPP mice and this effect parallels decreased β-amyloid peptide levels and decreased levels of amyloid plaques.

CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that increased O-GlcNAc can influence β-amyloid pathology in the presence of tau pathology. The findings provide good support for OGA as a promising therapeutic target to alter disease progression in Alzheimer disease.

Source: Yuzwa, S.A., Shan, X., Jones, B.A., Zhao, G., Woodward, M.L., Li, X., Zhu, Y., McEachern, E.J., Silverman, M.A., Watson, N.V., Gong, C.X., Vocadlo, D.J. Mol Neurodegener 9:42 (2014).