Growing evidence suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction is an early event in sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD), but the impact of mitochondrial dysfunction on the transition from healthy aging to AD remains elusive. Here we estimated the influence of mitochondrial dysfunction on the initiation of AD signs in OXYS rats, which simulate key characteristics of sporadic AD. We assessed the mitochondrial ultrastructure of pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus at the age preceding the development (age 20 days), during manifestation (4-5 months), and at the well-pronounced stages (18-24 months) of the AD-like pathology in OXYS rats. Ultrastructural alterations were collated with the amounts of proteins mediating mitochondrial dynamics [mitofusins (MFN1 and MFN2) and dynamin-1-like protein (DRP1)]; with activity of respiratory chain complexes I, IV, and V in the hippocampal mitochondria; with reactive oxygen species (ROS) production; and with expression of uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) regulating ROS production. Already at the preclinical stage, OXYS rats showed some characteristic changes in hippocampal mitochondria, which increased in size with the manifestation and progression of AD-like pathology, including decreased activity of respiratory complexes against the background of greater fusion and formation of larger mitochondria. Signs of AD developed simultaneously with increasing dysfunction of mitochondria, with a dramatic decrease in their number, and with increased fission but without upregulation of ROS production (observed only in 20-day-old OXYS rats). Summarizing the data from our present and previous studies, we conclude that mitochondrial dysfunction appears to mediate or possibly even initiate pathological molecular cascades of AD-like pathology in OXYS rats and can be considered a predictor of the early development of the late-onset form of AD in humans.
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