DOI: 10.1002/alz.083142 ISSN: 1552-5260

Astrocyte signaling regulates microglial and oligodendrocyte subpopulation changes in a diet‐based model of small cerebral vessel disease

Christopher M. Norris, Sangderk Lee, Jenna L Gollihue, Danielle S. Goulding, Pradoldej Sompol, Donna M. Wilcock, Josh M. Morganti
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID) is the second leading cause of dementia behind Alzhiemer’s disease. Hyperhomocysteinemia (HHcy)‐inducing diets in mice recapitulate aspects of VCID including small cerebrovessel pathology, vascular inflammation and cognitive decline. Recently, we found signs of astrocytic Ca2+‐dysregulation and hyperactivation of calcineurin/NFAT activity in mice treated with HHcy diet (Sompol et al., 2023 J Neurosci 43:1797). Inhibition of astrocytic NFATs normalized cerebrovascular, synaptic, and cognitive function in HHcy mice, suggesting that reactive astrocytes alter the brain milieu during development of HHcy and small cerebrovessel pathology. Here, we used scRNA‐seq to further characterize the impact of astrocytic calcineurin/NFATs on multiple brain cell types in the context of HHcy.


Seven‐to‐eight week‐old male C57BL/6J mice received intrahippocampal injections of AAV2/5‐Gfa2‐EGFP (control) or AAV expressing the NFAT inhibitor VIVIT (i.e. AAV2/5‐Gfa2‐VIVIT‐EGFP). Mice were then fed with control chow(CT) or HHcy‐inducing chow enriched in methionine and deficient in folate and vitamins B6 and B12. After15 weeks of diet, brains were extracted and hippocampi dissected away, pooled and dissociated for transcriptional analyses. scRNA‐seq was used to identify diet and AAV‐dependent cell specific gene expression changes according to our previous work (Lee et al, 2023, Cell Reports, 112196).


31 cell clusters were identified and assigned to 1 of 12 unique cell types using established gene markers. Analysis of differentially‐expressed genes showed that microglia and oligodendrocytes were most sensitive to diet and/or AAV treatment. In HHcy mice treated with control AAV (HHcy–EGFP), predominant microglial subpopulations exhibited upregulation of several disease‐associated microglial genes (e.g. Apoe, Il1b, Ccl5, Cebpb, Cybb) and downregulation of common homeostatic genes (e.g. P2ry12, Gpr34, Fcrls, Sparc). Oligodendrocyte subpopulations in the same mice also exhibited upregulation of disease related genes (e.g. Serpina3n, H2‐D1, C4b, Klk6). However, these patterns were mitigated in HHcy mice treated with AAV‐Gfa2‐VIVIT, who exhibited expression patterns in line with CT diet mice. Analyses of DEGs in other cell types and association with immunometabolic pathways are in progress.


Results suggest that reactive astrocyte signaling strongly regulates molecular phenotypes of other local glial cells and provides a potential target for preventing/resolving pathologic glial activity in VCID and other ADRDs.

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