Multiple Bioenergy-Linked OCT Biomarkers Suggest Greater-Than-Normal Rod Mitochondria Activity Early in Experimental Alzheimer's Disease.

Bruce A Berkowitz
Robert H Podolsky
Karen L. Childers, Beaumont Health
Robin Roberts
Rida Waseem


PURPOSE: In Alzheimer's disease, central brain neurons show evidence for early hyperactivity. It is unclear if this occurs in the retina, another disease target. Here, we tested for imaging biomarker manifestation of prodromal hyperactivity in rod mitochondria in vivo in experimental Alzheimer's disease.

METHODS: Light- and dark-adapted 4-month-old 5xFAD and wild-type (WT) mice, both on a C57BL/6J background, were studied with optical coherence tomography (OCT). We measured the reflectivity profile shape of the inner segment ellipsoid zone (EZ) as a proxy for mitochondria distribution. Two additional indices responsive to mitochondria activity were also measured: the thickness of the external limiting membrane-retinal pigment epithelium (ELM-RPE) region and the signal magnitude of a hyporeflective band (HB) between photoreceptor tips and apical RPE. Retinal laminar thickness and visual performance were evaluated.

RESULTS: In response to low energy demand (light), WT mice showed the expected elongation in EZ reflectivity profile shape, relatively thicker ELM-RPE, and greater HB signal. Under high energy demand (dark), the EZ reflectivity profile shape was rounder, the ELM-RPE was thinner, and the HB was reduced. These OCT biomarker patterns for light-adapted 5xFAD mice did not match those of light-adapted WT mice but rather that of dark-adapted WT mice. Dark-adapted 5xFAD and WT mice showed the same biomarker pattern. The 5xFAD mice exhibited modest nuclear layer thinning and lower-than-normal contrast sensitivity.

CONCLUSIONS: Results from three OCT bioenergy biomarkers raise the novel possibility of early rod hyperactivity in vivo in a common Alzheimer's disease model.