Cerebrovascular dysfunction appears to be involved in Alzheimer's disease (AD). In double mutant amyloid precursor protein/presenilin 2 (APP/PS2) mice, a transgenic model of AD, vessel homeostasis is disturbed. These mice have elevated levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and increased brain endothelial cell division but abnormally low brain vessel density. Examination of the potential involvement of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) in these alterations revealed that treatment with IGF-I, a potent vessel growth promoter in the brain that ameliorates cognitive dysfunction in APP/PS2 mice, counteracted vascular dysfunction as follows: VEGF levels and endothelial cell proliferation were reduced, whereas vascular density was normalized. Notably, abnormally elevated brain IGF-I receptor levels in APP/PS2 mice were also normalized by IGF-I treatment. Analysis of possible processes involved in these alterations indicated that AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a cell energy sensor that intervenes in angiogenic signaling and interacts with IGF-I, was also abnormally activated in APP/PS2 brains. Examination of the consequences of AMPK activation on cultured brain endothelial cells revealed increased VEGF levels together with enhanced endothelial cell proliferation and metabolism. Although these effects were also independently elicited by IGF-I, when both IGF-I and AMPK pathways were simultaneously activated on brain endothelial cells, VEGF production and endothelial cell proliferation ceased while cells remained metabolically activated (glucose use, peroxide production, and mitochondrial activity were elevated) and became more resistant to oxidative stress. Therefore, high IGF-I receptor and phosphoAMPK levels in APP/PS2 brains may reflect imbalanced IGF-I and AMPK angiogenic cross talk that could underlie vascular dysfunction in this model of AD.
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