The number of cysteine residues per mole in apolipoprotein e affects systematically synchronous neural interactions in women's healthy brains

Arthur C Leuthold, Margaret Y. Mahan, John J. Stanwyck, Angeliki Georgopoulos, Apostolos P Georgopoulos

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11 Scopus citations


Apolipoprotein E (apoE) is involved in lipid metabolism in the brain, but its effects on brain function are not understood. Three apoE isoforms (E4, E3, and E2) are the result of cysteine-arginine interchanges at two sites: there are zero interchanges in E4, one interchange in E3, and two interchanges in E2. The resulting six apoE genotypes (E4/4, E4/3, E4/2, E3/3, E3/2, E2/2) yield five groups with respect to the number of cysteine residues per mole (CysR/mole), as follows. ApoE4/4 has zero cysteine residues per mole (0-CysR/mole), E4/3 has one (1-CysR/mole), E4/2 and E3/3 each has two (2-CysR/mole), E3/2 has three (3-CysR/mole), and E2/2 has four (4-CysR/mole). The use of the number of CysR/mole to characterize the apoE molecule converts the categorical apoE genotype scale, consisting of 6 distinct genotypes above, to a 5-point continuous scale (0-4 CysR/mole). This allows the use of statistical analyses suitable for continuous variables (e.g. regression) to quantify the relations between various variables and apoE. Using such analyses, here, we show for the first time that apoE affects in a graded and orderly manner neural communication, as assessed by analyzing the relation between the number of CysR/mole and synchronous neural interactions (SNI) measured by magnetoencephalography (MEG) in 130 cognitively healthy women. At the one end of the CysR/mole range, the 4-CysR/mole (E2/2) SNI distribution had the highest mean, lowest variance, lowest range, and lowest coefficient of variation, whereas at the other end, 0-CysR/mole (E4/4) SNI distribution had the lowest mean, highest variance, highest range, and highest coefficient of variation. The special status of the 4-CysR/mole distribution was reinforced by the results of a hierarchical tree analysis where the 4-CysR/mole (E2/2) SNI distribution occupied a separate branch by itself and the remaining CysR/mole SNI distributions were placed at increasing distances from the 4-CysR/mole distribution, according to their number of CysR/mole, with the 0-CysR/mole (E4/4) being farthest away. These findings suggest that the 4-CysR/mole (E2/2) SNI distribution could serve as a reference distribution. When the SNI distributions of individual women were expressed as distances from this reference distribution, there was a substantial overlap among women of various CysR/mole. This refocuses the placement of individual brains along a continuous distance from the 4-CysR/mole SNI distribution, in contrast to the common categorical assignment to a specific apoE genotype. Finally, the orderly variation of SNI with the number of CysR/mole found here is in keeping with recent advances and ideas regarding the molecular mechanisms underlying the differential effects of apoE in the brain which emphasize the healthier stability conferred on the apoE molecule by the increasing number of cysteine-arginine interchanges, with 4-CysR/mole (E2/2) being the best case, as opposed to the instability and increased chance of toxic fragmentation of the apoE molecule with lower number of CysR/mole, with 0-CysR/mole (E4/4) as the worst case (Mahley and Huang in Neuron 76:871-885, 2012a). However, our results also document the appreciable variation of SNI properties within the various CysR/mole groups and individuals which points to the existence and important role of other factors involved in shaping brain function at the network level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-536
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This work was supported by the Minnesota Women Healthy Brain Aging Group, the Ted and Dr. Roberta Mann Foundation, the UCare Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the University of Minnesota, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the American Legion Brain Sciences Chair. We thank Debra Thilgen, Nancy Tabaka, and Laura Kalipe for help with recruiting women for the study, and Laura Kalipe for apoE genotyping. This material is based upon work partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 00006595. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


  • Apolipoprotein E
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Synchronous neural interactions


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