Astrocytes provide key neuronal support, and their phenotypic transformation is implicated in neurodegenerative diseases. Metabolically, astrocytes possess low mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) activity, but its pathophysiological role in neurodegeneration remains unclear. Here, we show that the brain critically depends on astrocytic OxPhos to degrade fatty acids (FAs) and maintain lipid homeostasis. Aberrant astrocytic OxPhos induces lipid droplet (LD) accumulation followed by neurodegeneration that recapitulates key features of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), including synaptic loss, neuroinflammation, demyelination and cognitive impairment. Mechanistically, when FA load overwhelms astrocytic OxPhos capacity, elevated acetyl-CoA levels induce astrocyte reactivity by enhancing STAT3 acetylation and activation. Intercellularly, lipid-laden reactive astrocytes stimulate neuronal FA oxidation and oxidative stress, activate microglia through IL-3 signalling, and inhibit the biosynthesis of FAs and phospholipids required for myelin replenishment. Along with LD accumulation and impaired FA degradation manifested in an AD mouse model, we reveal a lipid-centric, AD-resembling mechanism by which astrocytic mitochondrial dysfunction progressively induces neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Physiology (medical)
- Cell Biology