Concomitant AD and DLB pathologies shape subfield microglia responses in the hippocampus

Sonja Fixemer, Corrado Ameli, Gael P Hammer, Luis M Salamanca, Oihane Uriarte Huarte, Chantal Schwartz, Jean-Jacques Gerardy, Naguib Mechawar, Alexander Skupin, Michel Mittelbronn, Michel Bouvier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Hippocampal alteration is at the centre of memory decline in the most common age-related neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB). However, the subregional deterioration of the hippocampus differs between both diseases with more severe atrophy in the CA1 subfield of the AD patients. How AD and DLB-typical pathologies compose the various local microenvironment of the hippocampus across AD and DLB needs to be further explored to understand this process. Additionally, microglia responses could further impact the atrophy rate. Some studies suggest that microglia react differently according to the underlying neurodegenerative disorder. How microglia are transformed across hippocampal subfields in AD and DLB, and how their changes are associated with disease-typical pathologies remains to be determined. To these purposes, we performed a volumetric analysis of phospho-Tau (P-Tau), Amyloid-ß (Aß), and phospho-α-Synuclein (P-Syn) loads, quantified and classified microglia according to distinct morphological phenotypes using high-resolution confocal 3D microscopy of hippocampal CA1, CA3 and DG/CA4 subfields of late-onset AD (n=10) and DLB (n=8) as well as age-matched control samples (n=11).

We found that each of the Tau, Aß and Synuclein pathologies followed a specific subregional distribution, relatively preserved across AD and DLB. P-Tau, Aß and P-Syn burdens were significantly exacerbated in AD, with Tau pathology being particularly severe in the AD CA1. P-Tau and P-Syn burdens were highly correlated across subfields and conditions (R2Spear = 0.79; P < 0.001) and result from a local co-distribution of P-Tau and P-Syn inclusions in neighbouring neurons, with only a low proportion of double-positive cells.

In parallel, we assessed the changes of the microglia responses by measuring 16 morphological features of more than 35,000 individual microglial cells and classifying them into seven-distinct morphological clusters. We found microglia features- and clusters-variations subfield- and condition-dependent. Two of the seven morphological clusters, with more amoeboid and less branched forms, were identified as disease-enriched and found to be further increased in AD. Interestingly, some microglial features or clusters were associated with one but more often with a combination of two pathologies in a subfield-dependent manner.

In conclusion, our study shows a multimodal association of the hippocampal microglia responses with the co-occurrence, distribution and severity of AD and DLB pathologies. In DLB hippocampi, pathological imprint and microglia responses follow AD trends but with lesser severity. Our study suggests that the increased pathological burdens of P-Tau and P-Syn and associated microglia alterations are involved in a more severe deterioration of the CA1 in AD as compared to DLB.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2022

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