Modifying dietary protein impacts mTOR signaling and brain deposition of amyloid β in a knock-in mouse model of Alzheimer disease

Julien Bensalem, Leanne K. Hein, Sofia Hassiotis, Paul J. Trim, Christopher G. Proud, Leonie K. Heilbronn, Timothy J. Sargeant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Alzheimer disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative condition defined by the build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain and intraneuronal tangles of the protein tau. Autophagy is a cellular cleaning process involved in the degradation of proteins, including proteins directly responsible for amyloid plaques, but its activity is compromised in AD. The mechanistic target of rapamycin complex (mTORC) 1 inhibits autophagy when activated by amino acids. Objectives: We hypothesized that reducing amino acid intake by decreasing dietary protein could promote autophagy, which in turn could prevent amyloid plaque deposition in AD mice. Methods: Homozygote (2-mo-old) and heterozygote (4-mo-old) amyloid precursor protein NL-G-F mice, a model of brain amyloid deposition, were used in this study to test this hypothesis. Male and female mice were fed with isocaloric low-protein, control, or high-protein diets for 4 mo and killed for analysis. Locomotor performance was measured using the inverted screen test, and body composition was measured using EchoMRI. Samples were analyzed using western blotting, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, mass spectrometry, and immunohistochemical staining. Results: mTORC1 activity in the cerebral cortex was inversely covaried with protein consumption in both homozygote and heterozygote mice. Low-protein diet improved metabolic parameters and restored locomotor performance only in male homozygous mice. Dietary protein adjustment did not affect amyloid deposition in homozygous mice. However, in the heterozygous amyloid precursor protein NL-G-F mice, amyloid plaque was lower in male mice consuming the low protein compared with that in mice fed with the control diet. Conclusions: This study showed that reducing protein intake reduces mTORC1 activity and may prevent amyloid accumulation, at least in male mice. Moreover, dietary protein is a tool that can be used to change mTORC1 activity and amyloid deposition in the mouse brain, and the murine brain's response to dietary protein is sex specific.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of nutrition
Early online date2 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2023


  • Alzheimer disease
  • autophagy
  • diet
  • macronutrient
  • mTOR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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