Genetic Mechanisms Underlying Memory Loss in Alzheimer´s Disease

Carlos Saura, PhD
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), Spain)
Year Awarded:
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July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017
Alzheimer's Disease
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Carlos Saura, PhD

Transcriptional Mechanisms of Memory Loss in Alzheimer´s Disease


Memory impairment is one of the earliest clinical features of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but the cellular events that cause brain dysfunction and memory loss in this disease are largely unclear. Memory processing depends on activation of gene expression programs in specific memory neuronal circuits. In this project, we will study the transcriptional mechanisms of gene regulation underlying memory processing under normal conditions and those representing AD pathology. This information will be valuable to understand the causes of memory circuit dysfunction and help us develop novel and innovative therapies for the treatment of memory loss in AD.


Alterations in gene expression in the brain are associated with cognitive decline in normal and pathological aging, suggesting that deregulation of gene expression may underlie synaptic and memory dysfunction in memory disorders. The goal of this project is to investigate novel molecular mechanisms that regulate gene expression programs causing memory impairments at early Alzheimer´s disease stages. In this project, we will examine the role of the transcriptional co-activator Crtc1 on memory processing and Alzheimer´s disease pathogenesis in novel Crtc1 mutant mice. We will also assay novel Crtc1 activating approaches to treat pathological and memory changes in Alzheimer´s disease mouse models.

Alzheimer´s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by cognitive impairment at early disease stages, but the cellular events that cause brain dysfunction and memory impairment at early disease stages are largely unknown. Recent studies from our lab suggest that the Creb regulated transcription coactivator-1 (Crtc1) regulates genes essential for learning and memory, whereas Crtc1 dysfunction is evident at early Alzheimer´s disease stages. In this project, we will investigate the role of Crtc1 on synaptic and memory dysfunction and pathological changes associated with Alzheimer´s disease. To discern the biological function of Crtc1 in the brain, we will first use pioneering approaches to generate and characterize novel mutant Crtc1 mouse models. Second, we will study the role of Crtc1 on Alzheimer´s-associated pathology and memory by manipulating Crtc1 function in the brain of Alzheimer´s disease transgenic mice. Finally, we will assay novel Crtc1 gene therapy approaches to ameliorate or reverse memory loss in Alzheimer´s disease transgenic mice. If successful, this project will provide knowledge of novel molecular targets and new therapeutic strategies for early treatment of Alzheimer´s disease and related neurological disorders. Specifically, the results of this project will provide clues for targeting brain transcriptome to treat memory loss in Alzheimer´s disease.

About the Researcher

Carlos A. Saura is associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Institute of Neuroscience of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain). He obtained his PhD in chemistry from the University of Barcelona in 1998, and completed postdoctoral training in neurobiology and neuropathology at the Johns Hopkins University and University of Chicago (1998-2000), before becoming an instructor in the Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston (2000-2004). Next, from 2004 to 2009, Dr. Saura was research professor in biochemistry and molecular biology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Currently he’s a member of the team directing the Institute of Neuroscience at that Institution.

Dr. Saura has authored 34 peer-reviewed scientific articles in molecular aspects of brain function and degeneration. He has used pioneering approaches to generate novel transgenic and knockout mouse models of neurodegeneration that are used for assessing new therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer´s disease and age-related cognitive disorders. His latest research has focused on molecular and cellular mechanisms of synaptic dysfunction involved in neuropsychiatric symptoms and memory impairment in Alzheimer´s disease and other neurologic disorders. He has directed several European research projects and is an active collaborator with several national and international funding agencies and scientific journals.

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