Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) is a potent vasculoprotective and neuroprotective signaling lipid, synthesized primarily by sphingosine kinase 2 (SK2) in the brain. We have reported pronounced loss of S1P and SK2 activity early in Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis, and an inverse correlation between hippocampal S1P levels and age in females, leading us to speculate that loss of S1P is a sensitizing influence for AD. Paradoxically, SK2 was reported to mediate amyloid β (Aβ) formation from amyloid precursor protein (APP) in vitro To determine whether loss of S1P sensitizes to Aβ-mediated neurodegeneration, we investigated whether SK2 deficiency worsens pathology and memory in male J20 (PDGFB-APPSwInd) mice. SK2 deficiency greatly reduced Aβ content in J20 mice, associated with significant improvements in epileptiform activity and cross-frequency coupling measured by hippocampal electroencephalography. However, several key measures of APPSwInd-dependent neurodegeneration were enhanced on the SK2-null background, despite reduced Aβ burden. These included hippocampal volume loss, oligodendrocyte attrition and myelin loss, and impaired performance in Y-maze and social novelty memory tests. Inhibition of the endosomal cholesterol exporter NPC1 greatly reduced sphingosine phosphorylation in glial cells, linking loss of SK2 activity and S1P in AD to perturbed endosomal lipid metabolism. Our findings establish SK2 as an important endogenous regulator of both APP processing to Aβ, and oligodendrocyte survival, in vivo These results urge greater consideration of the roles played by oligodendrocyte dysfunction and altered membrane lipid metabolic flux as drivers of neurodegeneration in AD.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Genetic, neuropathological, and functional studies implicate both Aβ and altered lipid metabolism and/or signaling as key pathogenic drivers of Alzheimer's disease. In this study, we first demonstrate that the enzyme SK2, which generates the signaling lipid S1P, is required for Aβ formation from APP in vivo Second, we establish a new role for SK2 in the protection of oligodendrocytes and myelin. Loss of SK2 sensitizes to Aβ-mediated neurodegeneration by attenuating oligodendrocyte survival and promoting hippocampal atrophy, despite reduced Aβ burden. Our findings support a model in which Aβ-independent sensitizing influences such as loss of neuroprotective S1P are more important drivers of neurodegeneration than gross Aβ concentration or plaque density.
Available for download on Wednesday, May 27, 2020