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Multi-Omic Analyses Characterize the Ceramide/Sphingomyelin Pathway as a Therapeutic Target in Alzheimer's Disease

By Priyanka Baloni, Matthias Arnold, Herman Moreno, Kwangsik Nho, Luna Buitrago, Kevin Huynh, Barbara Brauner, Gregory Louie, Alexandra Kueider-Paisley, Karsten Suhre, Andrew J Saykin, Kim Ekroos, Peter Meikle, Leroy Hood, Nathan D Price, P. Murali Doraiswamy, Cory C Funk, Gabi Kastenmuller, Rebecca Baillie, Xianlin Han, Rima Kaddurah-Daouk

Posted 20 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.16.21260601

Dysregulation of sphingomyelin (SM) and ceramide metabolism have been implicated in Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Genome-wide and transcriptome wide association studies have identified various genes and genetic variants in lipid metabolism that are associated with AD. However, the molecular mechanisms of sphingomyelin and ceramide disruption remain to be determined. Evaluation of peripheral lipidomic profiles is useful in providing perspective on metabolic dysregulation in preclinical and clinical AD states. In this study, we focused on the sphingolipid pathway and carried out multi-omic analyses to identify central and peripheral metabolic changes in AD patients and correlate them to imaging features and cognitive performance in amyloidogenic mouse models. Our multi-omic approach was based on (a) 2114 human post-mortem brain transcriptomics to identify differentially expressed genes; (b) in silico metabolic flux analysis on 1708 context-specific metabolic networks to identify differential reaction fluxes; (c) multimodal neuroimaging analysis on 1576 participants to associate genetic variants in SM pathway with AD pathogenesis; (d) plasma metabolomic and lipidomic analysis to identify associations of lipid species with dysregulation in AD; (e) metabolite genome-wide association studies (mGWAS) to define receptors within pathway as potential drug target. Our findings from complementary approaches suggested that depletion of S1P compensated for AD cellular pathology, likely by upregulating the SM pathway, suggesting that modulation of S1P signaling may have protective effects in AD. We tested this hypothesis in APP/PS1 mice and showed that prolonged exposure to fingolimod, an S1P signaling modulator approved for treatment of multiple sclerosis, alleviated the cognitive impairment in mice. Our multi-omic approach identified potential targets in the SM pathway and suggested modulators of S1P metabolism as possible candidates for AD treatment.

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