Dopamine neuronal loss contributes to memory and reward dysfunction in a model of Alzheimer's disease

Annalisa Nobili, Emanuele Claudio Latagliata, Maria Teresa Viscomi, Virve Cavallucci, Debora Cutuli, Giacomo Giacovazzo, Paraskevi Krashia, Francesca Romana Rizzo, Ramona Marino, Mauro Federici, Paola De Bartolo, Daniela Aversa, Maria Concetta Dell'Acqua, Alberto Cordella, Marco Sancandi, Flavio Keller, Laura Petrosini, Stefano Puglisi-Allegra, Nicola Biagio Mercuri, Roberto CoccurelloNicola Berretta, Marcello D'Amelio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alterations of the dopaminergic (DAergic) system are frequently reported in Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients and are commonly linked to cognitive and non-cognitive symptoms. However, the cause of DAergic system dysfunction in AD remains to be elucidated. We investigated alterations of the midbrain DAergic system in the Tg2576 mouse model of AD, overexpressing a mutated human amyloid precursor protein (APPswe). Here, we found an age-dependent DAergic neuron loss in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) at pre-plaque stages, although substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) DAergic neurons were intact. The selective VTA DAergic neuron degeneration results in lower DA outflow in the hippocampus and nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell. The progression of DAergic cell death correlates with impairments in CA1 synaptic plasticity, memory performance and food reward processing. We conclude that in this mouse model of AD, degeneration of VTA DAergic neurons at pre-plaque stages contributes to memory deficits and dysfunction of reward processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14727
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - Apr 3 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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