Alzheimer's Research and Therapy
Centre for Precision Health / School of Medical and Health Sciences
Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (PRE2019-087612)
Wide evidence suggests that physical activity (PA) confers protection against Alzheimer’s disease (AD). On the other hand, the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) ε4 allele represents the greatest genetic risk factor for developing AD. Extensive research has been conducted to determine whether frequent PA can mitigate the increased AD risk associated with APOE ε4. However, thus far, these attempts have produced inconclusive results. In this context, one possible explanation could be that the influence of the combined effect of PA and APOE ε4 carriage might be dependent on the specific outcome measure utilised.
In order to bridge these discrepancies, the aim of this theoretical article is to propose a novel model on the interactive effects of PA and APOE ε4 carriage on well-established mechanisms underlying AD. Available literature was searched to investigate how PA and APOE ε4 carriage, independently and in combination, may alter several molecular pathways involved in AD pathogenesis. The reviewed mechanisms include amyloid beta (Aβ) and tau deposition and clearance, neuronal resilience and neurogenesis, lipid function and cerebrovascular alterations, brain immune response and glucose metabolism. Finally, combining all this information, we have built an integrative model, which includes evidence-based and theoretical synergistic interactions across mechanisms. Moreover, we have identified key knowledge gaps in the literature, providing a list of testable hypotheses that future studies need to address.
We conclude that PA influences a wide array of molecular targets involved in AD neuropathology. A deeper understanding of where, when and, most importantly, how PA decreases AD risk even in the presence of the APOE ε4 allele will enable the creation of new protocols using exercise along pharmaceuticals in combined therapeutic approaches.
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