Villasana, L., Acevedo, S., Poage, C. and Raber, J. Sex- and APOE Isoform-Dependent Effects of Radiation on Cognitive Function. Radiat. Res. 166, 883–891 (2006).
Clinical irradiation of the brain induces hippocampus-dependent cognitive impairments in some but not all individuals, suggesting the involvement of genetic risk factors. Deficiency of apolipoprotein E (APOE), which is important for the metabolism and redistribution of lipoproteins and cholesterol, increases behavioral impairments after irradiation, supporting a protective role for APOE against radiation-induced cognitive injury. Compared to APOE3, APOE4 increases while APOE2 decreases the risk of developing age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease, particularly in women. To determine the potential effects of APOE isoform and sex on radiation-induced cognitive impairments, we irradiated 2-month-old male and female APOE2, APOE3 and APOE4 mice and assessed their cognitive performance 3 months later. When hippocampus-dependent spatial learning and memory were assessed in the water maze, sham-irradiated female APOE2, APOE3 and APOE4 and irradiated female APOE2 mice showed spatial memory retention, but irradiated female APOE3 and APOE4 mice did not. Compared to sham-irradiated female APOE4 mice, irradiated female APOE4 mice also required more trials to reach criterion in the hippocampus-dependent passive avoidance test. Radiation had no effects on water maze or passive avoidance learning and memory of male APOE2, APOE3 or APOE4 mice, indicating that the effects of radiation on cognitive performance are dependent on sex- and APOE isoform.