Hyperactivation of monocytes and macrophages in MCI patients contributes to the progression of Alzheimer's disease
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Background: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease ultimately manifesting as clinical dementia. Despite considerable effort and ample experimental data, the role of neuroinflammation related to systemic inflammation is still unsettled. While the implication of microglia is well recognized, the exact contribution of peripheral monocytes/macrophages is still largely unknown, especially concerning their role in the various stages of AD. Objectives: AD develops over decades and its clinical manifestation is preceded by subjective memory complaints (SMC) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI); thus, the question arises how the peripheral innate immune response changes with the progression of the disease. Therefore, to further investigate the roles of monocytes/macrophages in the progression of AD we assessed their phenotypes and functions in patients at SMC, MCI and AD stages and compared them with cognitively healthy controls. We also conceptualised an idealised mathematical model to explain the functionality of monocytes/macrophages along the progression of the disease. Results: We show that there are distinct phenotypic and functional changes in monocyte and macrophage populations as the disease progresses. Higher free radical production upon stimulation could already be observed for the monocytes of SMC patients. The most striking results show that activation of peripheral monocytes (hyperactivation) is the strongest in the MCI group, at the prodromal stage of the disease. Monocytes exhibit significantly increased chemotaxis, free radical production, and cytokine production in response to TLR2 and TLR4 stimulation. Conclusion: Our data suggest that the peripheral innate immune system is activated during the progression from SMC through MCI to AD, with the highest levels of activation being in MCI subjects and the lowest in AD patients. Some of these parameters may be used as biomarkers, but more holistic immune studies are needed to find the best period of the disease for clinical intervention.