Inhibition of ACAT as a Therapeutic Target for Alzheimer’s Disease Is Independent of ApoE4 Lipidation

Ana C. Valencia-Olvera, Deebika Balu, Naomi Faulk, Aspasia Amiridis, Yueting Wang, Christine Pham, Eva Avila-Munoz, Jason M. York, Gregory R.J. Thatcher, Mary Jo LaDu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


APOE4, encoding apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4), is the greatest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), compared to the common APOE3. While the mechanism(s) underlying APOE4-induced AD risk remains unclear, increasing the lipidation of apoE4 is an important therapeutic target as apoE4-lipoproteins are poorly lipidated compared to apoE3-lipoproteins. ACAT (acyl-CoA: cholesterol-acyltransferase) catalyzes the formation of intracellular cholesteryl-ester droplets, reducing the intracellular free cholesterol (FC) pool. Thus, inhibiting ACAT increases the FC pool and facilitates lipid secretion to extracellular apoE-containing lipoproteins. Previous studies using commercial ACAT inhibitors, including avasimibe (AVAS), as well as ACAT-knock out (KO) mice, exhibit reduced AD-like pathology and amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing in familial AD (FAD)-transgenic (Tg) mice. However, the effects of AVAS with human apoE4 remain unknown. In vitro, AVAS induced apoE efflux at concentrations of AVAS measured in the brains of treated mice. AVAS treatment of male E4FAD-Tg mice (5xFAD+/- APOE4 +/+) at 6–8 months had no effect on plasma cholesterol levels or distribution, the original mechanism for AVAS treatment of CVD. In the CNS, AVAS reduced intracellular lipid droplets, indirectly demonstrating target engagement. Surrogate efficacy was demonstrated by an increase in Morris water maze measures of memory and postsynaptic protein levels. Amyloid-beta peptide (Aβ) solubility/deposition and neuroinflammation were reduced, critical components of APOE4-modulated pathology. However, there was no increase in apoE4 levels or apoE4 lipidation, while amyloidogenic and non-amyloidogenic processing of APP were significantly reduced. This suggests that the AVAS-induced reduction in Aβ via reduced APP processing was sufficient to reduce AD pathology, as apoE4-lipoproteins remained poorly lipidated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1120-1137
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • ACAT-1
  • APOE4
  • APP processing
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Oligomeric Aβ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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