Zinc status alters Alzheimer's disease progression through NLRP3-dependent inflammation

Jack Rivers-Auty, Victor S Tapia, Claire S White, Michael Jd Daniels, Samuel Drinkall, Paul T Kennedy, Harry G Spence, Shi Yu, Jack P Green, Christopher Hoyle, James Cook, Amy Bradley, Alison E Mather, Ruth Peters, Te-Chen Tzeng, Margaret J Gordon, John H Beattie, David Brough, Catherine B Lawrence* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Alzheimer's disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disease with a dramatically increasing prevalence and no disease-modifying treatment. Inflammatory lifestyle factors increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Zinc deficiency is the most prevalent malnutrition in the world and may be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease potentially through enhanced inflammation, although evidence for this is limited. Here we provide epidemiological evidence suggesting that zinc supplementation was associated with reduced risk and slower cognitive decline, in people with Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment. Using the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease fed a control (35mg/kg zinc) or diet deficient in zinc (3mg/kg zinc), we determined that zinc deficiency accelerated Alzheimer's-like memory deficits without modifying amyloid beta (β) plaque burden in the brains of male mice. The NLRP3-inflammasome complex is one of the most important regulators of inflammation and we show here that zinc deficiency in immune cells, including microglia, potentiated NLRP3 responses to inflammatory stimuli in vitro including amyloid oligomers, while zinc supplementation inhibited NLRP3 activation. APP/PS1 mice deficient in NLRP3 were protected against the accelerated cognitive decline with zinc deficiency. Collectively, this research suggests that zinc status is linked to inflammatory reactivity and may be modified in people to reduce the risk and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.Significance StatementAlzheimer's disease is a common condition mostly affecting the elderly. Zinc deficiency is also a global problem, especially in the elderly and also in people with Alzheimer's disease. Zinc deficiency contributes to many clinical disorders including immune dysfunction. Inflammation is known to contribute to the risk and progression of Alzheimer's disease, thus, we hypothesised that zinc status would affect Alzheimer's disease progression. Here we show that zinc supplementation reduced the prevalence and symptomatic decline in people with Alzheimer's disease. In an animal model of Alzheimer's disease, zinc deficiency worsened cognitive decline due to an enhancement in NLRP3-driven inflammation. Overall, our data suggest that zinc status affects Alzheimer's disease progression, and that zinc supplementation could slow the rate of cognitive decline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3025-3038
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number13
Early online date17 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2021


  • APP/PS1
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Inflammation
  • Microglia
  • NLRP3
  • Zinc


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