Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2024

Document Type

Thesis (Ph.D.)

Department or Program

Integrative Neuroscience

First Advisor

Arti Gaur


Aging and sex are major risk factors for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Compared to men, women experience worse neuropathological burden and cognitive decline despite living longer with the disease. Similarly, male 3xTg-AD mice, developed to model Alzheimer’s disease, no longer consistently exhibit standard Alzheimer’s neuropathology yet experience higher rates of mortality - providing a unique opportunity to further elucidate this dichotomy. We hypothesized that sex differences in the biological aging process yield distinct pathological and molecular Alzheimer’s disease signatures in males and females, which could be harnessed for therapeutic and biomarker development.

We aged male and female, 3xTg-AD and B6129 control mice across their respective lifespans (n=3-8 mice per sex, strain, and age group) and longitudinally assessed neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, markers of hepatic inflammation, splenic mass and morphology, as well as plasma cytokine levels. We conducted RNA sequencing analysis on bulk brain tissue and examined differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between 3xTg-AD and B6129 samples and across ages in each sex. We also examined DEGs between clinical Alzheimer’s and control parahippocampal gyrus brain tissue samples from the Mount Sinai Brain Bank study in each sex.

3xTg-AD females significantly outlived 3xTg-AD males and exhibited progressive Alzheimer’s neuropathology, while 3xTg-AD males demonstrated progressive hepatic inflammation, splenomegaly, circulating inflammatory proteins, and minimal Alzheimer’s neuropathological hallmarks. Instead, 3xTg-AD males experienced an accelerated upregulation of immune-related gene expression in the brain relative to females. Our clinical investigations revealed that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease develop similar sex-specific alterations in neuronal and immune function. In diseased males of both species, we observed greater upregulation of complement-related gene expression, and lipopolysaccharide was predicted as the top upstream regulator of DEGs.

Our data demonstrate that chronic inflammation and complement activation are associated with increased mortality, indicating that age-related changes in immune response contribute to sex differences in Alzheimer’s disease trajectories. We provide evidence that aging and transgene-driven disease progression trigger a widespread inflammatory response in 3xTg- AD males, which mimics the impact of lipopolysaccharide stimulation despite the absence of infection.