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Event: 352

Key Event Title

The KE title should describe a discrete biological change that can be measured. It should generally define the biological object or process being measured and whether it is increased, decreased, or otherwise definably altered relative to a control state. For example “enzyme activity, decreased”, “hormone concentration, increased”, or “growth rate, decreased”, where the specific enzyme or hormone being measured is defined. More help

N/A, Neurodegeneration

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. The short name should be less than 80 characters in length. More help
N/A, Neurodegeneration

Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. Note, KEs should be defined within a particular level of biological organization. Only KERs should be used to transition from one level of organization to another. Selection of the level of biological organization defines which structured terms will be available to select when defining the Event Components (below). More help

Organ term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Organ term

Key Event Components

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.Because one of the aims of the AOP-KB is to facilitate de facto construction of AOP networks through the use of shared KE and KER elements, authors are also asked to define their KEs using a set of structured ontology terms (Event Components). In the absence of structured terms, the same KE can readily be defined using a number of synonymous titles (read by a computer as character strings). In order to make these synonymous KEs more machine-readable, KEs should also be defined by one or more “event components” consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 22 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; See List). Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling). The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signalling by that receptor).Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description. To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons. If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests. Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add. More help
Process Object Action
neurodegeneration increased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Binding of antagonist to NMDARs can lead to neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration AdverseOutcome Florianne Tschudi-Monnet (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed
ionotropic glutamatergic receptors and cognition KeyEvent Anna Price (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed
AChE Inhibition Leading to Neurodegeneration AdverseOutcome Karen Watanabe (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite
Sars-CoV-2 causes encephalitis KeyEvent Anna Price (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite


This is a structured field used to identify specific agents (generally chemicals) that can trigger the KE. Stressors identified in this field will be linked to the KE in a machine-readable manner, such that, for example, a stressor search would identify this as an event the stressor can trigger. NOTE: intermediate or downstream KEs in one AOP may function as MIEs in other AOPs, meaning that stressor information may be added to the KE description, even if it is a downstream KE in the pathway currently under development.Information concerning the stressors that may trigger an MIE can be defined using a combination of structured and unstructured (free-text) fields. For example, structured fields may be used to indicate specific chemicals for which there is evidence of an interaction relevant to this MIE. By linking the KE description to a structured chemical name, it will be increasingly possible to link the MIE to other sources of chemical data and information, enhancing searchability and inter-operability among different data-sources and knowledgebases. The free-text section “Evidence for perturbation of this MIE by stressor” can be used both to identify the supporting evidence for specific stressors triggering the MIE as well as to define broad chemical categories or other properties that classify the stressors able to trigger the MIE for which specific structured terms may not exist. More help

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) can be selected from an ontology. In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
human Homo sapiens High NCBI
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
zebrafish Danio rerio Moderate NCBI

Life Stages

The structured ontology terms for life-stage are more comprehensive than those for taxa, but may still require further description/development and explanation in the free text section. More help
Life stage Evidence
During brain development, adulthood and aging High

Sex Applicability

No help message More help
Term Evidence
Mixed High

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. For example, the biological state being measured could be the activity of an enzyme, the expression of a gene or abundance of an mRNA transcript, the concentration of a hormone or protein, neuronal activity, heart rate, etc. The biological compartment may be a particular cell type, tissue, organ, fluid (e.g., plasma, cerebrospinal fluid), etc. The role in the biology could describe the reaction that an enzyme catalyses and the role of that reaction within a given metabolic pathway; the protein that a gene or mRNA transcript codes for and the function of that protein; the function of a hormone in a given target tissue, physiological function of an organ, etc. Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs, KERs or AOPs. Only describe this KE as a single isolated measurable event/state. This will ensure that the KE is modular and can be used by other AOPs, thereby facilitating construction of AOP networks. More help

The term neurodegeneration is a combination of two words - "neuro," referring to nerve cells and "degeneration," referring to progressive damage. The term "neurodegeneration" can be applied to several conditions that result in the loss of nerve structure and function, and neuronal loss by necrosis and/or apoptosis

Neurodegeneration is a key aspect of a large number of diseases that come under the umbrella of “neurodegenerative diseases" including Huntington's, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. All of these conditions lead to progressive brain damage and neurodegeneration.

Alzheimer's disease is characterised by loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex and certain subcortical regions, with gross atrophy of the affected regions; symptoms include memory loss.

Parkinson's disease (PD) results from the death of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain substantia nigra pars compacta; symptoms include bradykinesia, rigidity, and resting tremor.

Several observations suggest correlative links between environmental exposure and neurodegenerative diseases, but only few suggest causative links:

Only an extremely small proportion (less than 5%) of neurodegenerative diseases are caused by genetic mutations (Narayan and Dragounov, 2017). The remainders are thought to be caused by the following:

·      A build up of toxic proteins in the brain (Evin et al., 2006)

·      A loss of mitochondrial function that leads to the oxidative stress and creation of neurotoxic molecules that trigger cell death (apoptotic, necrotic or autophagy) (Cobley et al., 2018)

·      Changes in the levels and activities of neurotrophic factors (Kazim and Iqbal, 2016; Machado et al., 2016; Rodriguez et al., 2014)

·      Variations in the activity of neural networks (Greicius and Kimmel, 2012)

Protein aggregation: the correlation between neurodegenerative disease and protein aggregation in the brain has long been recognised, but a causal relationship has not been unequivocally established (Lansbury et al., 2006; Kumar et al., 2016). The dynamic nature of protein aggregation mean that, despite progress in understanding its mechanisms, its relationship to disease is difficult to determine in the laboratory.

Nevertheless, drug candidates that inhibit aggregation are now being tested in the clinic. These have the potential to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and related disorders and could, if administered pre-symptomatically, drastically reduce the incidence of these diseases.

Loss of mitochondrial function: many lines of evidence suggest that mitochondria have a central role in neurodegenerative diseases (Lin and Beal, 2006). Mitochondria are critical regulators of cell death, a key feature of neurodegeneration. Dysfunction of mitochondria induces oxidative stress, production of free radicals, calcium overload, and mutations in mitochondrial DNA that contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. In all major examples of these diseases there is strong evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction occurs early and acts causally in disease pathogenesis. Moreover, an impressive number of disease- specific proteins interact with mitochondria. Thus, therapies targeting basic mitochondrial processes, such as energy metabolism or free-radical generation, or specific interactions of disease-related proteins with mitochondria, hold great promise.

Decreased level of neurotrophic factors: decreased levels and activities of neurotrophic factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), have been described in a number of neurodegenerative disorders, including Huntington's disease, Alzheimer disease and Parkinson disease (Zuccato and Cattaneo, 2009). These studies have led to the development of experimental strategies aimed at increasing BDNF levels in the brains of animals that have been genetically altered to mimic the aforementioned human diseases, with a view to ultimately influencing the clinical treatment of these conditions. Therefore BDNF treatment is being considered as a beneficial and feasible therapeutic approach in the clinic.

Variations in the activity of neural networks: Patients with various neurodegenerative disorders show remarkable fluctuations in neurological functions, even during the same day (Palop et al., 2006). These fluctuations cannot be caused by sudden loss or gain of nerve cells. Instead, it is likely that they reflect variations in the activity of neural networks and, perhaps, chronic intoxication by abnormal proteins that the brain is only temporarily able to overcome.

Neurodegeneration in relation to COVID19

SARS-CoV-2 patients present elevated plasma levels of neurofilament light chain protein (NfL), which is a well-known biochemical indicator of neuronal injury (Kanberg et al., 2020). Postmortem brain autopsies demonstrate virus invasion to different brain regions, including the hypothalamus and olfactory bulb, accompanied by neural death and demyelination (Archie and Cucullo 2020; Heneka et al. 2020).

Autopsy results of patients with SARS showed ischemic neuronal damage and demyelination; viral RNA was detected in brain tissue, particularly accumulating in and around the hippocampus (Gu et al. 2005).

Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) investigations in SARS-CoV-2 patients show multifocal hyperintense white matter lesions and cortical signal abnormalities (particularly in the medial temporal lobe) on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR), along with intracerebral hemorrhagic and microhemorrhagic lesions, and leptomeningeal enhancement (Kandemirli et al. 2020; Kremer et al. 2020; Mohammadi et al., 2020).

Moreover, eight COVID-19 patients with signs of encephalopathy had anti–SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in their CSF, and 4 patients had CSF positive for 14-3-3-protein suggesting ongoing neurodegeneration (Alexopoulos et al. 2020).

How It Is Measured or Detected

One of the primary considerations in evaluating AOPs is the relevance and reliability of the methods with which the KEs can be measured. The aim of this section of the KE description is not to provide detailed protocols, but rather to capture, in a sentence or two, per method, the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements. Methods that can be used to detect or measure the biological state represented in the KE should be briefly described and/or cited. These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA).Key considerations regarding scientific confidence in the measurement approach include whether the assay is fit for purpose, whether it provides a direct or indirect measure of the biological state in question, whether it is repeatable and reproducible, and the extent to which it is accepted in the scientific and/or regulatory community. Information can be obtained from the OECD Test Guidelines website and the EURL ECVAM Database Service on Alternative Methods to Animal Experimentation (DB-ALM). ?

The assays for measurements of necrotic or apoptotic cell death are described in the Key Event: Cell injury/Cell death

Recent neuropathological studies have shown that Fluoro-Jade, an anionic fluorescent dye, is a good marker of degenerating neurons. Fluoro-Jade and Fluoro-Jade B were found to stain all degenerating neurons, regardless of specific insult or mechanism of cell death (Schmued et al., 2005). More recently, Fluoro-Jade C was shown to be highly resistant to fading and compatible with virtually all histological processing and staining protocols (Schmued et al., 2005). In addition, Fluoro-Jade C is a good tool for detecting acutely and chronically degenerating neurons (Ehara and Ueda, 2009).

Domain of Applicability

This free text section should be used to elaborate on the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided). While structured terms may be selected to define the taxonomic, life stage and sex applicability (see structured applicability terms, above) of the KE, the structured terms may not adequately reflect or capture the overall biological applicability domain (particularly with regard to taxa). Likewise, the structured terms do not provide an explanation or rationale for the selection. The free-text section on evidence for taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability can be used to elaborate on why the specific structured terms were selected, and provide supporting references and background information.  More help

The necrotic and apoptotic cell death pathways are quite well conserved throughout taxa (Blackstone and Green, 1999, Aravind et al., 2001). It has been widely suggested that apoptosis is also conserved in metazoans, although despite conservation of Bcl-2 proteins, APAF-1, and caspases there is no biochemical evidence of the existence of the mitochondrial pathway in either C. elegans or Drosophila apoptosis (Baum et al., 2007; Blackstone and Green, 1999).

Evidence for Perturbation by Stressor

Regulatory Significance of the Adverse Outcome

An AO is a specialised KE that represents the end (an adverse outcome of regulatory significance) of an AOP. For KEs that are designated as an AO, one additional field of information (regulatory significance of the AO) should be completed, to the extent feasible. If the KE is being described is not an AO, simply indicate “not an AO” in this section.A key criterion for defining an AO is its relevance for regulatory decision-making (i.e., it corresponds to an accepted protection goal or common apical endpoint in an established regulatory guideline study). For example, in humans this may constitute increased risk of disease-related pathology in a particular organ or organ system in an individual or in either the entire or a specified subset of the population. In wildlife, this will most often be an outcome of demographic significance that has meaning in terms of estimates of population sustainability. Given this consideration, in addition to describing the biological state associated with the AO, how it can be measured, and its taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability, it is useful to describe regulatory examples using this AO. More help

Currently the four available OECD Test Guidelines (TGs) for neurotoxicity testing are entirely based on in vivo neurotoxicity studies: (1)Delayed Neurotoxicity of Organophosphorus Substances Following Acute Exposure (TG 418); (2) Delayed Neurotoxicity of Organophosphorus Substances: 28-day Repeated Dose Study (TG 419); (3) Neurotoxicity Study in Rodents (TG 424) involves daily oral dosing of rats for acute, subchronic, or chronic assessments (28 days, 90 days, or one year or longer); (4) Developmental Neurotoxicity (DNT) Study (TG 426) evaluates in utero and early postnatal effects by daily dosing of at least 60 pregnant rats from implantation through lactation. One of the endpoints required by all four of these OECD TGs is evaluation of neurodegeneration that, so far, is performed through in vivo neuropathological and histological studies. Therefore, neurodegeneration described in this AOP as a key event, has a regulatory relevance and could be performed using in vitro assays that allow a reliable evaluation of neurodegeneration using a large range of existing assays, specific for apoptosis, necrosis and autophagy ( see also KE Cell injury/Cell death).


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. Ideally, the list of references, should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide ( (OECD, 2015). More help

Aravind, L., Dixit, V. M., and Koonin, E. V. (2001). Apoptotic Molecular Machinery: Vastly Increased Complexity in Vertebrates Revealed by Genome Comparisons. Science 291, 1279-1284.

Baum, J. S., Arama, E., Steller, H., and McCall, K. (2007). The Drosophila caspases Strica and Dronc function redundantly in programmed cell death during oogenesis. Cell Death Differ 14, 1508-1517.

Blackstone, N. W., and Green, D. R. (1999). The evolution of a mechanism of cell suicide. Bioessays 21, 84-88.

Cobley JN, Fiorello ML, Bailey DM (2018) 13 reasons why the brain is susceptible to oxidative stress. Redox Biol 15: 490-503

Ehara A, Ueda S. 2009. Application of Fluoro-Jade C in acute and chronic neurodegeneration models: utilities and staining differences. Acta histochemica et cytochemica 42(6): 171-179.

Evin G, Sernee MF, Masters CL (2006) Inhibition of gamma-secretase as a therapeutic intervention for Alzheimer's disease: prospects, limitations and strategies. CNS Drugs 20: 351-72

Greicius MD, Kimmel DL (2012) Neuroimaging insights into network-based neurodegeneration. Curr Opin Neurol 25: 727-34

Kazim SF, Iqbal K (2016) Neurotrophic factor small-molecule mimetics mediated neuroregeneration and synaptic repair: emerging therapeutic modality for Alzheimer's disease. Mol Neurodegener 11: 50

Kumar V, Sami N, Kashav T, Islam A, Ahmad F, Hassan MI (2016) Protein aggregation and neurodegenerative diseases: From theory to therapy. Eur J Med Chem 124: 1105-1120

Lansbury1 PT & Lashuel HA (2006) A century-old debate on protein aggregation and neurodegeneration enters the clinic. Nature 443, 774-779.

Lin1 MT & Beal MF (2006) Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress in neurodegenerative diseases. Nature 443, 787-795

Machado V, Zoller T, Attaai A, Spittau B (2016) Microglia-Mediated Neuroinflammation and Neurotrophic Factor-Induced Protection in the MPTP Mouse Model of Parkinson's Disease-Lessons from Transgenic Mice. Int J Mol Sci 17

Narayan P, Dragunow M (2017) Alzheimer's Disease and Histone Code Alterations. Adv Exp Med Biol 978: 321-336

Palop JJ, Chin1 J & Mucke L, Review Article A network dysfunction perspective on neurodegenerative diseases. 2006, Nature 443, 768-773

Rodrigues TM, Jeronimo-Santos A, Outeiro TF, Sebastiao AM, Diogenes MJ (2014) Challenges and promises in the development of neurotrophic factor-based therapies for Parkinson's disease. Drugs Aging 31: 239-61

Schmued LC, Stowers CC, Scallet AC, Xu L. 2005. Fluoro-Jade C results in ultra high resolution and contrast labeling of degenerating neurons. Brain Res 1035(1): 24-31.

Zuccato C & Cattaneo E, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in neurodegenerative diseases.2009, Nature Reviews Neurology 5, 311-3

COVID19-related references relevant to KE Neurodegeneration:

Alexopoulos et al. Anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the CSF, blood-brain barrier dysfunction, and neurological outcome: Studies in 8 stuporous and comatose patients. Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2020 Sep 25;7(6):e893.

Archie SR, Cucullo L. Cerebrovascular and neurological dysfunction under the threat of COVID-19: is there a comorbid role for smoking and vaping? Int J Mol Sci. 2020 21(11):3916 12.

Gu J et al. Multiple organ infection and the pathogenesis of SARS. J Exp Med. 2005;202:415–424.

Heneka MT, et al. Immediate and long-term consequences of COVID-19 infections for the development of neurological disease. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2020 12(1):1–3.

Kandemirli SG, et al. Brain MRI findings in patients in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 infection. Radiology. 2020 Oct;297(1):E232-E235.

Kanberg N, et al. Neurochemical evidence of astrocytic and neuronal injury commonly found in COVID-19. Neurology. 2020 Sep 22;95(12):e1754-e1759.

Kremer S, et al. Brain MRI findings in severe COVID-19: a retrospective observational study. Radiology. 2020 Nov;297(2):E242-E251.

Mohammadi S. et al. Understanding the Immunologic Characteristics of Neurologic Manifestations of SARS-CoV-2 and Potential Immunological Mechanisms. Mol Neurobiol. 2020 Dec;57(12):5263-5275.