Recent studies have indicated that innate immune signalling molecules are involved in late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) risk. Amyloid beta (Aβ) accumulates in AD brain, and has been proposed to act as a trigger of innate immune responses. Caspase-4 is an important part of the innate immune response. We recently characterized transgenic mice carrying human CASP4, and observed that the mice manifested profound innate immune responses to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Since these inflammatory processes are important in the aetiology of AD, we have now analysed the correlation of expression of caspase-4 in human brain with AD risk genes, and studied caspase-4 effects on AD-related phenotypes in APPswe/PS1deltaE9 (APP/PS1) mice. We observed that the expression of caspase-4 was strongly correlated with AD risk genes including TYROBP, TREM2, CR1, PSEN1, MS4A4A and MS4A6A in LOAD brains. Caspase-4 expression was upregulated in CASP4/APP/PS1 mice in a region-specific manner, including hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. In APP/PS1 mice, caspase-4 expression led to impairments in the reversal phase of a Barnes maze task and in hippocampal synaptic plasticity, without affecting soluble or aggregated Aβ levels. Caspase-4 was expressed predominantly in microglial cells, and in the presence of CASP4, more microglia were clustered around amyloid plaques. Furthermore, our data indicated that caspase-4 modulates microglial cells in a manner that increases proinflammatory processes. We propose that microglial caspase-4 expression contributes to the cognitive impairments in AD, and that further study of caspase-4 will enhance our understanding of AD pathogenesis and may lead to novel therapeutic targets in AD.

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