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1.  Genetic Predisposition to Increased Blood Cholesterol and Triglyceride Lipid Levels and Risk of Alzheimer Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001713.
In this study, Proitsi and colleagues use a Mendelian randomization approach to dissect the causal nature of the association between circulating lipid levels and late onset Alzheimer's Disease (LOAD) and find that genetic predisposition to increased plasma cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels is not associated with elevated LOAD risk.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Although altered lipid metabolism has been extensively implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease (AD) through cell biological, epidemiological, and genetic studies, the molecular mechanisms linking cholesterol and AD pathology are still not well understood and contradictory results have been reported. We have used a Mendelian randomization approach to dissect the causal nature of the association between circulating lipid levels and late onset AD (LOAD) and test the hypothesis that genetically raised lipid levels increase the risk of LOAD.
Methods and Findings
We included 3,914 patients with LOAD, 1,675 older individuals without LOAD, and 4,989 individuals from the general population from six genome wide studies drawn from a white population (total n = 10,578). We constructed weighted genotype risk scores (GRSs) for four blood lipid phenotypes (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol [HDL-c], low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-c], triglycerides, and total cholesterol) using well-established SNPs in 157 loci for blood lipids reported by Willer and colleagues (2013). Both full GRSs using all SNPs associated with each trait at p<5×10−8 and trait specific scores using SNPs associated exclusively with each trait at p<5×10−8 were developed. We used logistic regression to investigate whether the GRSs were associated with LOAD in each study and results were combined together by meta-analysis. We found no association between any of the full GRSs and LOAD (meta-analysis results: odds ratio [OR] = 1.005, 95% CI 0.82–1.24, p = 0.962 per 1 unit increase in HDL-c; OR = 0.901, 95% CI 0.65–1.25, p = 0.530 per 1 unit increase in LDL-c; OR = 1.104, 95% CI 0.89–1.37, p = 0.362 per 1 unit increase in triglycerides; and OR = 0.954, 95% CI 0.76–1.21, p = 0.688 per 1 unit increase in total cholesterol). Results for the trait specific scores were similar; however, the trait specific scores explained much smaller phenotypic variance.
Genetic predisposition to increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels is not associated with elevated LOAD risk. The observed epidemiological associations between abnormal lipid levels and LOAD risk could therefore be attributed to the result of biological pleiotropy or could be secondary to LOAD. Limitations of this study include the small proportion of lipid variance explained by the GRS, biases in case-control ascertainment, and the limitations implicit to Mendelian randomization studies. Future studies should focus on larger LOAD datasets with longitudinal sampled peripheral lipid measures and other markers of lipid metabolism, which have been shown to be altered in LOAD.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Currently, about 44 million people worldwide have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. Dementia mainly affects older people and, because people are living longer, experts estimate that more than 135 million people will have dementia by 2050. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease. In this type of dementia, protein clumps called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form in the brain and cause its degeneration. The earliest sign of Alzheimer disease is usually increasing forgetfulness. As the disease progresses, affected individuals gradually lose their ability to deal with normal daily activities such as dressing. They may become anxious or aggressive or begin to wander. They may also eventually lose control of their bladder and of other physical functions. At present, there is no cure for Alzheimer disease although some of its symptoms can be managed with drugs. Most people with the disease are initially cared for at home by relatives and other unpaid carers, but many patients end their days in a care home or specialist nursing home.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several lines of evidence suggest that lipid metabolism (how the body handles cholesterol and other fats) is altered in patients whose Alzheimer disease develops after the age of 60 years (late onset Alzheimer disease, LOAD). In particular, epidemiological studies (observational investigations that examine the patterns and causes of disease in populations) have found an association between high amounts of cholesterol in the blood in midlife and the risk of LOAD. However, observational studies cannot prove that abnormal lipid metabolism (dyslipidemia) causes LOAD. People with dyslipidemia may share other characteristics that cause both dyslipidemia and LOAD (confounding) or LOAD might actually cause dyslipidemia (reverse causation). Here, the researchers use “Mendelian randomization” to examine whether lifetime changes in lipid metabolism caused by genes have a causal impact on LOAD risk. In Mendelian randomization, causality is inferred from associations between genetic variants that mimic the effect of a modifiable risk factor and the outcome of interest. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not prone to confounding and are free from reverse causation. So, if dyslipidemia causes LOAD, genetic variants that affect lipid metabolism should be associated with an altered risk of LOAD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers investigated whether genetic predisposition to raised lipid levels increased the risk of LOAD in 10,578 participants (3,914 patients with LOAD, 1,675 elderly people without LOAD, and 4,989 population controls) using data collected in six genome wide studies looking for gene variants associated with Alzheimer disease. The researchers constructed a genotype risk score (GRS) for each participant using genetic risk markers for four types of blood lipids on the basis of the presence of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, a type of gene variant) in their DNA. When the researchers used statistical methods to investigate the association between the GRS and LOAD among all the study participants, they found no association between the GRS and LOAD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the genetic predisposition to raised blood levels of four types of lipid is not causally associated with LOAD risk. The accuracy of this finding may be affected by several limitations of this study, including the small proportion of lipid variance explained by the GRS and the validity of several assumptions that underlie all Mendelian randomization studies. Moreover, because all the participants in this study were white, these findings may not apply to people of other ethnic backgrounds. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that the observed epidemiological associations between abnormal lipid levels in the blood and variation in lipid levels for reasons other than genetics, or to LOAD risk could be secondary to variation in lipid levels for reasons other than genetics, or to LOAD, a possibility that can be investigated by studying blood lipid levels and other markers of lipid metabolism over time in large groups of patients with LOAD. Importantly, however, these findings provide new information about the role of lipids in LOAD development that may eventually lead to new therapeutic and public-health interventions for Alzheimer disease.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including personal stories) about Alzheimer's disease
The UK not-for-profit organization Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including personal experiences of living with Alzheimer's disease
The US not-for-profit organization Alzheimer's Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and personal stories about dementia
Alzheimer's Disease International is the international federation of Alzheimer disease associations around the world; it provides links to individual associations, information about dementia, and links to World Alzheimer Reports
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about Alzheimer's disease (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC4165594  PMID: 25226301
2.  Epidemiological Pathology of Dementia: Attributable-Risks at Death in the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(11):e1000180.
Researchers from the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Neuropathology Study carry out an analysis of brain pathologies contributing to dementia, within a cohort of elderly individuals in the UK who agreed to brain donation.
Dementia drug development aims to modulate pathological processes that cause clinical syndromes. Population data (epidemiological neuropathology) will help to model and predict the potential impact of such therapies on dementia burden in older people. Presently this can only be explored through post mortem findings. We report the attributable risks (ARs) for dementia at death for common age-related degenerative and vascular pathologies, and other factors, in the MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS).
Methods and Findings
A multicentre, prospective, longitudinal study of older people in the UK was linked to a brain donation programme. Neuropathology of 456 consecutive brain donations assessed degenerative and vascular pathologies. Logistic regression modelling, with bootstrapping and sensitivity analyses, was used to estimate AR at death for dementia for specific pathologies and other factors. The main contributors to AR at death for dementia in MRC CFAS were age (18%), small brain (12%), neocortical neuritic plaques (8%) and neurofibrillary tangles (11%), small vessel disease (12%), multiple vascular pathologies (9%), and hippocampal atrophy (10%). Other significant factors include cerebral amyloid angiopathy (7%) and Lewy bodies (3%).
Such AR estimates cannot be derived from the living population; rather they estimate the relative contribution of specific pathologies to dementia at death. We found that multiple pathologies determine the overall burden of dementia. The impact of therapy targeted to a specific pathology may be profound when the dementia is relatively “pure,” but may be less impressive for the majority with mixed disease, and in terms of the population. These data justify a range of strategies, and combination therapies, to combat the degenerative and vascular determinants of cognitive decline and dementia.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Losing one's belongings and forgetting people's names is often a normal part of aging. But increasing forgetfulness can also be a sign of dementia, a group of symptoms caused by several disorders that affect the structure of the brain. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease. In this, protein clumps called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form in the brain and cause its degeneration. Vascular dementia, in which problems with blood circulation deprive parts of the brain of oxygen, is also common. People with dementia have problems with two or more “cognitive” functions—thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment. As the disease progresses, they gradually lose their ability to deal with normal daily activities until they need total care, their personality often changes, and they may become agitated or aggressive. Dementia is rare before the age of 65 years but about a quarter of people over 85 years old have dementia. Because more people live to a ripe old age these days, the number of people with dementia is increasing. According to the latest estimates, about 35 million people now have dementia and by 2050, 115 million may have the disorder.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is no cure for dementia but many drugs designed to modulate specific abnormal (pathological) changes in the brain that can cause the symptoms of dementia are being developed. To assess the likely impact of these potentially expensive new therapies, experts need to know what proportion of dementia is associated with each type of brain pathology. Although some brain changes can be detected in living brains with techniques such as computed tomography brain scans, most brain changes can only be studied in brains taken from people after death (post mortem brains). In this study, which is part of the UK Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS), the researchers look for associations between dementia in elderly people and pathological changes in their post mortem brains and estimate the attributable-risk (AR) for dementia at death associated with specific pathological features in the brain. That is, they estimate the proportion of dementia directly attributable to each type of pathology.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Nearly 20 years ago, the MRC CFAS interviewed more than 18,000 people aged 65 years or older recruited at six sites in England and Wales to determine their cognitive function and their ability to deal with daily activities. 20% of the participants, which included people with and without cognitive impairment, were then assessed in more detail and invited to donate their brains for post mortem examination. As of 2004, 456 individuals had donated their brains. The dementia status of these donors was established using data from their assessment interviews and death certificates, and from interviews with relatives and carers, and their brains were carefully examined for abnormal changes. The researchers then used statistical methods to estimate the AR for dementia at death associated with various abnormal brain changes. The main contributors to AR for dementia at death included age (18% of dementia at death was attributable to this factor), plaques (8%), and neurofibrillary tangles (11%) in a brain region called the neocortex, small blood vessel disease (12%), and multiple abnormal changes in blood vessels (9%).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that multiple abnormal brain changes determine the overall burden of dementia. Importantly, they also suggest that dementia is often associated with mixed pathological changes—many people with dementia had brain changes consistent with both Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia. Because people with dementia live for variable lengths of time during which the abnormal changes in their brain are likely to alter, it may be difficult to extrapolate these findings to living populations of elderly people. Furthermore, only a small percentage of the MRC CFAS participants have donated their brains so the findings of this study may not apply to the general population. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the new therapies currently under development may do little to reduce the overall burden of dementia because most people's dementia involves multiple pathologies. Consequently, it may be necessary to develop a range of strategies and combination therapies to deal with the ongoing dementia epidemic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute on Aging provides information for patients and carers about forgetfulness and about Alzheimer disease (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information about dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site also provides detailed information for patients and their carers about dementia and about Alzheimer disease
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about dementia and Alzheimer disease (in English and Spanish)
More information about the UK Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS) is available
PMCID: PMC2765638  PMID: 19901977
3.  GABAergic neurotransmission and new strategies of neuromodulation to compensate synaptic dysfunction in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by cognitive decline, brain atrophy due to neuronal and synapse loss, and formation of two pathological lesions: extracellular amyloid plaques, composed largely of amyloid-beta peptide (Aβ), and neurofibrillary tangles formed by intracellular aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau protein. Lesions mainly accumulate in brain regions that modulate cognitive functions such as the hippocampus, septum or amygdala. These brain structures have dense reciprocal glutamatergic, cholinergic, and GABAergic connections and their relationships directly affect learning and memory processes, so they have been proposed as highly susceptible regions to suffer damage by Aβ during AD course. Last findings support the emerging concept that soluble Aβ peptides, inducing an initial stage of synaptic dysfunction which probably starts 20–30 years before the clinical onset of AD, can perturb the excitatory–inhibitory balance of neural circuitries. In turn, neurotransmission imbalance will result in altered network activity that might be responsible of cognitive deficits in AD. Therefore, Aβ interactions on neurotransmission systems in memory-related brain regions such as amygdaloid complex, medial septum or hippocampus are critical in cognitive functions and appear as a pivotal target for drug design to improve learning and dysfunctions that manifest with age. Since treatments based on glutamatergic and cholinergic pharmacology in AD have shown limited success, therapies combining modulators of different neurotransmission systems including recent findings regarding the GABAergic system, emerge as a more useful tool for the treatment, and overall prevention, of this dementia. In this review, focused on inhibitory systems, we will analyze pharmacological strategies to compensate neurotransmission imbalance that might be considered as potential therapeutic interventions in AD.
PMCID: PMC4070063  PMID: 24987334
septohippocampal system; amyloid-β peptide; excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission; learning and memory; Alzheimer’s disease
4.  Neuropathology of Alzheimer's Disease 
Alois Alzheimer first pointed out that the disease which would later bear his name has a distinct and recognizable neuropathological substrate. Since then, much has been added to our understanding of the pathological lesions associated with the condition. The 2 primary cardinal lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease are the neurofibrillary tangle and the senile plaque. The neurofibrillary tangle consists of abnormal accumulations of abnormally phosphorylated tau within the perikaryal cytoplasm of certain neurons. The senile plaque consists of a central core of beta-amyloid, a 4-kD peptide, surrounded by abnormally configured neuronal processes or neurites. Other neuropathological lesions are encountered in cases of Alzheimer's disease, but the disease is defined and recognized by these 2 cardinal lesions. Other lesions include poorly understood changes such as granulovacuolar degeneration and eosinophilic rod-like bodies (Hirano bodies). The loss of synaptic components is a change that clearly has a significant impact on cognitive function and represents another important morphological alteration. It is important to recognize that distinguishing between Alzheimer's disease, especially in its early stages, and normal aging may be very difficult, particularly if one is examining the brains of patients who died at an advanced old age. It is also noted that instances of pure forms of Alzheimer's disease, in the absence of other coexistent brain disease processes, such as infarctions or Parkinson's disease–related lesions, are relatively uncommon, and this must be taken into account by researchers who employ postmortem brain tissues for research.
PMCID: PMC2918894  PMID: 20101720
Alzheimer's disease; beta-amyloid; neurofibrillary tangle; neuropathology; senile plaque
5.  Interactions between β-amyloid and central cholinergic neurons: implications for Alzheimer's disease 
Alzheimer's disease is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by a progressive loss of memory and deterioration of higher cognitive functions. The brain of an individual with Alzheimer's disease exhibits extracellular plaques of aggregated β-amyloid protein (Aβ), intracellular neurofibrillary tangles that contain hyperphosphorylated tau protein and a profound loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons that innervate the hippocampus and the neocortex. Aβ accumulation may trigger or contribute to the process of neurodegeneration. However, the mechanisms whereby Aβ induces basal forebrain cholinergic cell loss and cognitive impairment remain obscure. Physiologically relevant concentrations of Aβ-related peptides have acute, negative effects on multiple aspects of acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis and release, without inducing toxicity. These data suggest a neuromodulatory influence of the peptides on central cholinergic functions. Long-term exposure to micromolar Aβ induces cholinergic cell toxicity, possibly via hyperphosphorylation of tau protein. Conversely, activation of selected cholinergic receptors has been shown to alter the processing of the amyloid precursor protein as well as phosphorylation of tau protein. A direct interaction between Aβ and nicotinic ACh receptors has also been demonstrated. This review addresses the role of Aβ-related peptides in regulating the function and survival of central cholinergic neurons and the relevance of these effects to cholinergic deficits in Alzheimer's disease. Understanding the functional interrelations between Aβ peptides, cholinergic neurons and tau phosphorylation will unravel the biologic events that precede neurodegeneration and may lead to the development of more effective pharmacotherapies for Alzheimer's disease.
La maladie d'Alzheimer est une maladie neurodégénérative reliée à l'âge caractérisée par une perte progressive de la mémoire et la détérioration des fonctions cognitives supérieures. Le cerveau d'une personne atteinte de la maladie d'Alzheimer contient des plaques extracellulaires de protéine β-amyloïde (Aβ) agrégée et des enchevêtrements neurofibrillaires intracellulaires qui contiennent de la protéine tau hyperphosphorylée, et présente une perte profonde de neurones cholinergiques du cerveau antérieur basal qui innervent l'hippocampe et le néocortex. L'accumulation de protéine Aβ peut déclencher le processus de neurodégénération ou y contribuer. Les mécanismes par lesquels la protéine Aβ provoque la perte de cellules cholinergiques du cerveau antérieur basal et la déficience de la cognition demeurent toutefois obscurs. Des concentrations physiologiquement pertinentes de peptides reliés à la protéine Aβont des effets négatifs aigus sur de multiples aspects de la synthèse et de la libération de l'acétylcholine (ACh) sans provoquer de toxicité. Ces données indiquent que les peptides ont peut-être une influence neuromodulatrice sur les fonctions cholinergiques centrales. L'exposition chronique à des protéines Aβmicromolaires provoque la toxicité des cellules cholinergiques, peut-être par l'hyperphosphorylation de la protéine tau. On a par ailleurs démontré que l'activation de certains récepteurs cholinergiques altère la transformation de la protéine précurseur amyloïde, ainsi que la phosphorylation de la protéine tau. On a aussi démontré l'existence d'un lien direct entre la protéine Aβ et les récepteurs de l'ACh nicotiniques. Cette étude porte sur le rôle des peptides reliés à la protéine Aβ dans la régulation de la fonction et de la survie des neurones cholinergiques centraux et la pertinence de ces effets pour les déficits cholinergiques dans les cas de maladie d'Alzheimer. La compréhension des liens fonctionnels entre les peptides Aβ, les neurones cholinergiques et la phosphorylation de la protéine tau précisera les éléments biologiques qui précèdent la neurodégénération et pourra peut-être déboucher sur la mise au point de pharmacothérapies plus efficaces contre la maladie d'Alzheimer.
PMCID: PMC524960  PMID: 15644984
acetylcholine; Alzheimer disease; amyloid; models, animal; neurodegenerative diseases; neuromodulation
6.  Dissociation of Neuropathologic Findings and Cognition 
Archives of Neurology  2007;64(8):1193-1196.
The apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε2 allele has been suggested as having a protective effect and delaying the age at onset of Alzheimer disease.
To describe a dissociation between findings neuropathologic with normal cognition in a woman with severe Alzheimer disease with the APOE ε2/ε2 genotype.
Case report from a community based prospective study of persons 90 years or older (The 90+ Study).
A 92-year-old woman without dementia with the APOE ε2/ε2 genotype who lived independently without significant cognitive or functional loss and was a participant in The 90+ Study. She died in December 2004, and postmortem examination of her brain was performed.
Neurologic examination and a battery of neuropsychological tests were performed 6 months and 1 month before death. Neuropathologic examination included Braak and Braak staging for senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.
Neuropathologic examination of the brain revealed advanced senile plaque and neurofibrillary tangle disease consistent with a high likelihood of Alzheimer disease. At clinical evaluation, the participant demonstrated no dementia and only mild cognitive deficits.
The APOE genotype may have contributed to maintenance of cognition despite advanced neuropathologic findings of Alzheimer disease. This case suggests that the APOE ε2 isoform may have a protective effect against cognitive decline in Alzheimer disease that may be independent from senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.
PMCID: PMC3378248  PMID: 17698712
7.  Positron emission tomography imaging and clinical progression in relation to molecular pathology in the first Pittsburgh Compound B positron emission tomography patient with Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2010;134(1):301-317.
The accumulation of β-amyloid in the brain is an early event in Alzheimer’s disease. This study presents the first patient with Alzheimer’s disease who underwent positron emission tomography imaging with the amyloid tracer, Pittsburgh Compound B to visualize fibrillar β-amyloid in the brain. Here we relate the clinical progression, amyloid and functional brain positron emission tomography imaging with molecular neuropathological alterations at autopsy to gain new insight into the relationship between β-amyloid accumulation, inflammatory processes and the cholinergic neurotransmitter system in Alzheimer’s disease brain. The patient underwent positron emission tomography studies with 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose three times (at ages 53, 56 and 58 years) and twice with Pittsburgh Compound B (at ages 56 and 58 years), prior to death at 61 years of age. The patient showed a pronounced decline in cerebral glucose metabolism and cognition during disease progression, while Pittsburgh Compound B retention remained high and stable at follow-up. Neuropathological examination of the brain at autopsy confirmed the clinical diagnosis of pure Alzheimer’s disease. A comprehensive neuropathological investigation was performed in nine brain regions to measure the regional distribution of β-amyloid, neurofibrillary tangles and the levels of binding of 3H-nicotine and 125I-α-bungarotoxin to neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes, 3H-L-deprenyl to activated astrocytes and 3H-PK11195 to microglia, as well as butyrylcholinesterase activity. Regional in vivo 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B-positron emission tomography retention positively correlated with 3H-Pittsburgh Compound B binding, total insoluble β-amyloid, and β-amyloid plaque distribution, but not with the number of neurofibrillary tangles measured at autopsy. There was a negative correlation between regional fibrillar β-amyloid and levels of 3H-nicotine binding. In addition, a positive correlation was found between regional 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B positron emission tomography retention and 3H-Pittsburgh Compound B binding with the number of glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactive cells, but not with 3H-L-deprenyl and 3H-PK-11195 binding. In summary, high 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B positron emission tomography retention significantly correlates with both fibrillar β-amyloid and losses of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes at autopsy, suggesting a closer involvement of β-amyloid pathology with neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes than with inflammatory processes.
PMCID: PMC3009843  PMID: 21149866
Alzheimer’s disease; autopsy brain; 11C-PIB positron emission tomography; inflammation; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
8.  Examination of the Clinicopathologic Continuum of Alzheimer Disease in the Autopsy Cohort of the National Alzheimer Coordinating Center 
To test the hypothesis that Alzheimer disease (AD) is a clinical and pathologic continuum between normal aging and end-stage dementia, we selected a convenience sample of subjects from the National Alzheimer Coordinating Center 2005 to 2012 autopsy cohort (n = 2,083) with the last clinical evaluation within 2 years before autopsy and no other primary neuropathologic diagnosis. Demographic and neuropathologic characteristics were correlated with the Clinical Dementia Rating–Sum of Boxes in the 835 subjects meeting these criteria. Both neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles independently predicted Clinical Dementia Rating–Sum of Boxes. Severe small-vessel disease, severe amyloid angiopathy, and hippocampal sclerosis were also independently associated with the degree of cognitive impairment. By contrast, education was a strong independent protective factor against cognitive deficits. The cause of mild to moderate dementia remained uncertain in 14% of the patients. Inverse probability weighting suggests the generalizability of these results to nonautopsied cohorts. These data indicate that plaques and tangles independently contribute to cognitive impairment, that concurrent vascular disease strongly correlates with cognitive dysfunction even in a sample selected to represent the AD pathologic continuum, and that education further modifies clinical expression. Thus, multiple concomitant etiologies of brain damage and premorbid characteristics contribute to the uncertainty of AD clinicopathologic correlations based only on tangles and plaques.
PMCID: PMC3962953  PMID: 24226270
Alzheimer disease; Cerebral amyloid angiopathy; Hippocampal sclerosis; Neuritic plaques; Neurofibrillary tangles; Small-vessel disease
9.  Early Tau pathology involving the septo-hippocampal pathway in a Tau transgenic model: relevance to Alzheimer's disease 
Current Alzheimer Research  2009;6(2):152-157.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by amyloid deposits and neurofibrillary tangles. Cholinergic dysfunction is also a main pathological feature of the disease. Nevertheless, the links between cholinergic dysfunction and neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are still unknown. In the present study, we aimed to further investigate Tau aggregation in cholinergic systems, in a Tau transgenic mouse model. THY-Tau22 mice have recently been described as a novel model of Alzheimer–like Tau pathology without motor deficits. This strain presents an age-dependent development of Tau pathology leading to synaptic dysfunctions as well as learning and memory impairments. In the present work, we observed that Tau pathology differentially affects cerebral structures. Interestingly, early Tau pathology was observed in both hippocampus and basal forebrain. Moreover, some morphological as well as functional alterations of the septohippocampal pathway suggest a disconnection between these two key brain regions in Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, these data suggest that Tau pathology may participate to cholinergic degeneration.
PMCID: PMC2859345  PMID: 19355850
Age Factors; Alzheimer Disease; pathology; Animals; Brain Mapping; Disease Models, Animal; Glycine; genetics; Hippocampus; pathology; Mice; Mice, Inbred C57BL; Mice, Transgenic; Mutation; genetics; Neural Pathways; pathology; Proline; genetics; Septum of Brain; pathology; Serine; genetics; Stilbamidines; metabolism; Valine; genetics; tau Proteins; genetics; metabolism; Acetylcholine; Axonal transport; Basal forebrain; Neurofibrillary tangles; Phosphorylation
10.  Correlation of Alzheimer Disease Neuropathologic Changes With Cognitive Status: A Review of the Literature 
Clinicopathologic correlation studies are critically important for the field of Alzheimer disease (AD) research. Studies on human subjects with autopsy confirmation entail numerous potential biases that affect both their general applicability and the validity of the correlations. Many sources of data variability can weaken the apparent correlation between cognitive status and AD neuropathologic changes. Indeed, most persons in advanced old age have significant non-AD brain lesions that may alter cognition independently of AD. Worldwide research efforts have evaluated thousands of human subjects to assess the causes of cognitive impairment in the elderly, and these studies have been interpreted in different ways. We review the literature focusing on the correlation of AD neuropathologic changes (i.e. β-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles) with cognitive impairment. We discuss the various patterns of brain changes that have been observed in elderly individuals to provide a perspective for understanding AD clinicopathologic correlation and conclude that evidence from many independent research centers strongly supports the existence of a specific disease, as defined by the presence of Aβ plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Although Aβ plaques may play a key role in AD pathogenesis, the severity of cognitive impairment correlates best with the burden of neocortical neurofibrillary tangles.
PMCID: PMC3560290  PMID: 22487856
Aging; Alzheimer disease; Amyloid; Dementia; Epidemiology; Neuropathology; MAPT; Neurofibrillary tangles
11.  Neuropathological Alterations in Alzheimer Disease 
The neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease (AD) include “positive” lesions such as amyloid plaques and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, neurofibrillary tangles, and glial responses, and “negative” lesions such as neuronal and synaptic loss. Despite their inherently cross-sectional nature, postmortem studies have enabled the staging of the progression of both amyloid and tangle pathologies, and, consequently, the development of diagnostic criteria that are now used worldwide. In addition, clinicopathological correlation studies have been crucial to generate hypotheses about the pathophysiology of the disease, by establishing that there is a continuum between “normal” aging and AD dementia, and that the amyloid plaque build-up occurs primarily before the onset of cognitive deficits, while neurofibrillary tangles, neuron loss, and particularly synaptic loss, parallel the progression of cognitive decline. Importantly, these cross-sectional neuropathological data have been largely validated by longitudinal in vivo studies using modern imaging biomarkers such as amyloid PET and volumetric MRI.
Amyloid plaque build-up occurs primarily before the onset of cognitive deficits. Neurofibrillary tangles, neuron loss, and synaptic loss parallel the progression of cognitive decline.
PMCID: PMC3234452  PMID: 22229116
12.  The occult aftermath of boxing. 
The repeated head trauma experienced by boxers can lead to the development of dementia pugilistica (DP)--punch drunk syndrome. The neuropathology of DP in a classic report by Corsellis et al describes the presence of numerous neurofibrillary tangles in the absence of plaques, in contrast to the profusion of tangles and plaques seen in Alzheimer's disease (AD). The DP cases used in that report were re-investigated with immunocytochemical methods and an antibody raised to the beta-protein present in AD plaques. We found that all DP cases with substantial tangle formation showed evidence of extensive beta-protein immunoreactive deposits (plaques). These diffuse "plaques" were not visible with Congo-red or standard silver stains. The degree of beta-protein deposition was comparable to that seen in AD. Our data indicate that the present neuropathological description of DP (tangles but no plaques) should be altered to acknowledge the presence of substantial beta-protein deposition (plaques). The molecular markers present in the plaques and tangles of DP are the same as those in AD. Similarities in clinical symptoms, distribution of pathology and neurochemical deficits also exist. Epidemiological studies have shown that head injury is a risk factor in AD. It is probable that DP and AD share common pathogenic mechanisms leading to tangle and plaque formation.
PMCID: PMC488051  PMID: 2191084
13.  Perforant path synaptic loss correlates with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease in the oldest-old 
Brain  2014;137(9):2578-2587.
Cognitive impairment in the oldest-old remains poorly understood. In a study of post-mortem tissue, Robinson et al. find that individuals with cognitive impairment remain pathologically indistinguishable from cognitively intact controls. Tangles, perforant pathway synaptic loss and hippocampal sclerosis are the major pathologies underlying dementia in the oldest-old.
Alzheimer’s disease, which is defined pathologically by abundant amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles concurrent with synaptic and neuronal loss, is the most common underlying cause of dementia in the elderly. Among the oldest-old, those aged 90 and older, other ageing-related brain pathologies are prevalent in addition to Alzheimer’s disease, including cerebrovascular disease and hippocampal sclerosis. Although definite Alzheimer’s disease pathology can distinguish dementia from normal individuals, the pathologies underlying cognitive impairment, especially in the oldest-old, remain poorly understood. We therefore conducted studies to determine the relative contributions of Alzheimer’s disease pathology, cerebrovascular disease, hippocampal sclerosis and the altered expression of three synaptic proteins to cognitive status and global cognitive function. Relative immunohistochemistry intensity measures were obtained for synaptophysin, Synaptic vesicle transporter Sv2 (now known as SV2A) and Vesicular glutamate transporter 1 in the outer molecular layer of the hippocampal dentate gyrus on the first 157 participants of ‘The 90+ Study’ who came to autopsy, including participants with dementia (n = 84), those with cognitive impairment but no dementia (n = 37) and those with normal cognition (n = 36). Thal phase, Braak stage, cerebrovascular disease, hippocampal sclerosis and Pathological 43-kDa transactive response sequence DNA-binding protein (TDP-43) were also analysed. All measures were obtained blind to cognitive diagnosis. Global cognition was tested by the Mini-Mental State Examinaton. Logistic regression analysis explored the association between the pathological measures and the odds of being in the different cognitive groups whereas multiple regression analyses explored the association between pathological measures and global cognition scores. No measure clearly distinguished the control and cognitive impairment groups. Comparing the cognitive impairment and dementia groups, synaptophysin and SV2 were reduced, whereas Braak stage, TDP-43 and hippocampal sclerosis frequency increased. Thal phase and VGLUT1 did not distinguish the cognitive impairment and dementia groups. All measures distinguished the dementia and control groups and all markers associated with the cognitive test scores. When all markers were analysed simultaneously, a reduction in synaptophysin, a high Braak stage and the presence of TDP-43 and hippocampal sclerosis associated with global cognitive function. These findings suggest that tangle pathology, hippocampal sclerosis, TDP-43 and perforant pathway synaptic loss are the major contributors to dementia in the oldest-old. Although an increase in plaque pathology and glutamatergic synaptic loss may be early events associated with cognitive impairment, we conclude that those with cognitive impairment, but no dementia, are indistinguishable from cognitively normal subjects based on the measures reported here.
PMCID: PMC4132652  PMID: 25012223
Alzheimer’s disease; Braak stage; Thal phase; synaptic loss; oldest-old; cognitive impairment
14.  Neuropathology of Nondemented Aging: Presumptive Evidence for Preclinical Alzheimer Disease 
Neurobiology of aging  2009;30(7):1026-1036.
To determine the frequency and possible cognitive effect of histological Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in autopsied older nondemented individuals.
Senile plaques (SPs) and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) were assessed quantitatively in 97 cases from 7 Alzheimer’s Disease Centers (ADCs). Neuropathological diagnoses of AD (npAD) were also made with four sets of criteria. Adjusted linear mixed models tested differences between participants with and without npAD on the quantitative neuropathology measures and psychometric test scores prior to death. Spearman rank-order correlations between AD lesions and psychometric scores at last assessment were calculated for cases with pathology in particular regions.
Washington University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
Ninety-seven nondemented participants who were age 60 years or older at death (mean = 84 years).
About 40% of nondemented individuals met at least some level of criteria for npAD; when strict criteria were used, about 20% of cases had npAD. Substantial overlap of Braak neurofibrillary stages occurred between npAD and no-npAD cases. Although there was no measurable cognitive impairment prior to death for either the no-npAD or npAD groups, cognitive function in nondemented aging appears to be degraded by the presence of NFTs and SPs.
Neuropathological processes related to AD in persons without dementia appear to be associated with subtle cognitive dysfunction and may represent a preclinical stage of the illness. By age 80–85 years, many nondemented older adults have substantial AD pathology.
PMCID: PMC2737680  PMID: 19376612
preclinical Alzheimer’s disease; nondemented aging; neuropathological Alzheimer’s disease
15.  Peroxisomal alterations in Alzheimer’s disease 
Acta Neuropathologica  2011;122(3):271-283.
In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), lipid alterations are present early during disease progression. As some of these alterations point towards a peroxisomal dysfunction, we investigated peroxisomes in human postmortem brains obtained from the cohort-based, longitudinal Vienna-Transdanube Aging (VITA) study. Based on the neuropathological Braak staging for AD on one hemisphere, the patients were grouped into three cohorts of increasing severity (stages I–II, III–IV, and V–VI, respectively). Lipid analyses of cortical regions from the other hemisphere revealed accumulation of C22:0 and very long-chain fatty acids (VLCFA, C24:0 and C26:0), all substrates for peroxisomal β-oxidation, in cases with stages V–VI pathology compared with those modestly affected (stages I–II). Conversely, the level of plasmalogens, which need intact peroxisomes for their biosynthesis, was decreased in severely affected tissues, in agreement with a peroxisomal dysfunction. In addition, the peroxisomal volume density was increased in the soma of neurons in gyrus frontalis at advanced AD stages. Confocal laser microscopy demonstrated a loss of peroxisomes in neuronal processes with abnormally phosphorylated tau protein, implicating impaired trafficking as the cause of altered peroxisomal distribution. Besides the original Braak staging, the study design allowed a direct correlation between the biochemical findings and the amount of neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and neuritic plaques, quantified in adjacent tissue sections. Interestingly, the decrease in plasmalogens and the increase in VLCFA and peroxisomal volume density in neuronal somata all showed a stronger association with NFT than with neuritic plaques. These results indicate substantial peroxisome-related alterations in AD, which may contribute to the progression of AD pathology.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-011-0836-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3168371  PMID: 21594711
Aging; Neurofibrillary tangles; Peroxisome; Plasmalogen; VLCFA
16.  Preclinical AD Workgroup staging: pathological correlates and potential challenges 
Neurobiology of Aging  2011;33(3):622.e1-622.e16.
The National Institute on Aging Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease Workgroup (PADW) has issued a preliminary report with recommendations for classifying preclinical Alzheimer’s disease (pAD) according to 3 early disease stages. Here we examine the PADW recommendations in relation to neuropathological features in a large, consecutive series of cognitively intact elderly persons, autopsied within a year after cognitive testing (n = 126 cognitively intact patients with mean age 83.7 years at death). Subjects were grouped based on a hypothetical construct correlating pathological features with PADW stages. Many cognitively intact individuals were classifiable as pAD (53/126 or 43%), as expected based on epidemiological and biomarker studies. Of these, most (48%) were in “stage 3”, which corresponds to amyloid pathology with early neurodegeneration. As with prior studies, our data indicate that the development of neocortical neurofibrillary tangles is the key pathological event that is not observed in pAD cases: Braak stages III or IV pathology are hence not truly a substrate for “intermediate likelihood” that cognitive impairment is due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We also stress the importance of comorbid non-Alzheimer’s disease brain pathologies (hippocampal sclerosis, neocortical alpha-synucleinopathy, cerebrovascular disease, and brains with hippocampal neurofibrillary tangles but no cortical amyloid plaques) that can contribute to the development of cognitive impairment, or which may serve as confounds in the application of the PADW recommendations. While the final recommendations from the PADW working group have not yet been released, this preliminary analysis provides a perspective on those recommendations from a neuropathological point of view.
PMCID: PMC3245887  PMID: 21507528
Nondemented; Biomarkers; MRI; CSF; Preclinical; Neuropathology; Normal
17.  Alzheimer's Disease and Non-Demented High Pathology Control Nonagenarians: Comparing and Contrasting the Biochemistry of Cognitively Successful Aging 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27291.
The amyloid cascade hypothesis provides an economical mechanistic explanation for Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia and correlated neuropathology. However, some nonagenarian individuals (high pathology controls, HPC) remain cognitively intact while enduring high amyloid plaque loads for decades. If amyloid accumulation is the prime instigator of neurotoxicity and dementia, specific protective mechanisms must enable these HPC to evade cognitive decline. We evaluated the neuropathological and biochemical differences existing between non-demented (ND)-HPC and an age-matched cohort with AD dementia. The ND-HPC selected for our study were clinically assessed as ND and possessed high amyloid plaque burdens. ELISA and Western blot analyses were used to quantify a group of proteins related to APP/Aβ/tau metabolism and other neurotrophic and inflammation-related molecules that have been found to be altered in neurodegenerative disorders and are pivotal to brain homeostasis and mental health. The molecules assumed to be critical in AD dementia, such as soluble or insoluble Aβ40, Aβ42 and tau were quantified by ELISA. Interestingly, only Aβ42 demonstrated a significant increase in ND-HPC when compared to the AD group. The vascular amyloid load which was not used in the selection of cases, was on the average almost 2-fold greater in AD than the ND-HPC, suggesting that a higher degree of microvascular dysfunction and perfusion compromise was present in the demented cohort. Neurofibrillary tangles were less frequent in the frontal cortices of ND-HPC. Biochemical findings included elevated vascular endothelial growth factor, apolipoprotein E and the neuroprotective factor S100B in ND-HPC, while anti-angiogenic pigment epithelium derived factor levels were lower. The lack of clear Aβ-related pathological/biochemical demarcation between AD and ND-HPC suggests that in addition to amyloid plaques other factors, such as neurofibrillary tangle density and vascular integrity, must play important roles in cognitive failure.
PMCID: PMC3210154  PMID: 22087282
18.  Specific Serotonergic Denervation Affects tau Pathology and Cognition without Altering Senile Plaques Deposition in APP/PS1 Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79947.
Senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are major neuropathological features of Alzheimer's Disease (AD), however neuronal loss is the alteration that best correlates with cognitive impairment in AD patients. Underlying neurotoxic mechanisms are not completely understood although specific neurotransmission deficiencies have been observed in AD patients and, in animal models, cholinergic and noradrenergic denervation may increase amyloid-beta deposition and tau phosphorylation in denervated areas. On the other hand brainstem neurodegeneration has been suggested as an initial event in AD, and serotonergic dysfunction, as well as reductions in raphe neurones density, have been reported in AD patients. In this study we addressed whether specific serotonergic denervation, by administering 5,7-dihydroxitriptamine (5,7-DHT) in the raphe nuclei, could also worsen central pathology in APPswe/PS1dE9 mice or interfere with learning and memory activities. In our hands specific serotonergic denervation increased tau phosphorylation in denervated cortex, without affecting amyloid-beta (Aβ) pathology. We also observed that APPswe/PS1dE9 mice lesioned with 5,7-DHT were impaired in the Morris water maze test, supporting a synergistic effect of the serotonergic denervation and the presence of APP/PS1 transgenes on learning and memory impairment. Altogether our data suggest that serotonergic denervation may interfere with some pathological aspects observed in AD, including tau phosphorylation or cognitive impairment, without affecting Aβ pathology, supporting a differential role of specific neurotransmitter systems in AD.
PMCID: PMC3837012  PMID: 24278223
19.  Neuropathologic features associated with Alzheimer disease diagnosis 
Neurology  2011;77(19):1737-1744.
To examine whether the association between clinical Alzheimer disease (AD) diagnosis and neuropathology and the precision by which neuropathology differentiates people with clinical AD from those with normal cognition varies by age.
We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 2,014 older adults (≥70 years at death) from the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center database with clinical diagnosis of normal cognition (made ≤1 year before death, n = 419) or AD (at ≥65 years, n = 1,595) and a postmortem neuropathologic examination evaluating AD pathology (neurofibrillary tangles, neuritic plaques) and non-AD pathology (diffuse plaques, amyloid angiopathy, Lewy bodies, macrovascular disease, microvascular disease). We used adjusted logistic regression to analyze the relationship between clinical AD diagnosis and neuropathologic features, area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (c statistic) to evaluate how precisely neuropathology differentiates between cognitive diagnoses, and an interaction to identify effect modification by age group.
In a model controlling for coexisting neuropathologic features, the relationship between clinical AD diagnosis and neurofibrillary tangles was significantly weaker with increasing age (p < 0.001 for interaction). The aggregate of all neuropathologic features more strongly differentiated people with clinical AD from those without in younger age groups (70–74 years: c statistic, 95% confidence interval: 0.93, 0.89–0.96; 75–84 years: 0.95, 0.87–0.95; ≥85 years: 0.83, 0.80–0.87). Non-AD pathology significantly improved precision of differentiation across all age groups (p < 0.004).
Clinical AD diagnosis was more weakly associated with neurofibrillary tangles among the oldest old compared to younger age groups, possibly due to less accurate clinical diagnosis, better neurocompensation, or unaccounted pathology among the oldest old.
PMCID: PMC3208952  PMID: 22031532
20.  Morphological and Pathological Evolution of the Brain Microcirculation in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36893.
Key pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), including amyloid plaques, cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) and neurofibrillary tangles do not completely account for cognitive impairment, therefore other factors such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular pathologies, may contribute to AD. In order to elucidate the microvascular changes that contribute to aging and disease, direct neuropathological staining and immunohistochemistry, were used to quantify the structural integrity of the microvasculature and its innervation in three oldest-old cohorts: 1) nonagenarians with AD and a high amyloid plaque load; 2) nonagenarians with no dementia and a high amyloid plaque load; 3) nonagenarians without dementia or amyloid plaques. In addition, a non-demented (ND) group (average age 71 years) with no amyloid plaques was included for comparison. While gray matter thickness and overall brain mass were reduced in AD compared to ND control groups, overall capillary density was not different. However, degenerated string capillaries were elevated in AD, potentially suggesting greater microvascular “dysfunction” compared to ND groups. Intriguingly, apolipoprotein ε4 carriers had significantly higher string vessel counts relative to non-ε4 carriers. Taken together, these data suggest a concomitant loss of functional capillaries and brain volume in AD subjects. We also demonstrated a trend of decreasing vesicular acetylcholine transporter staining, a marker of cortical cholinergic afferents that contribute to arteriolar vasoregulation, in AD compared to ND control groups, suggesting impaired control of vasodilation in AD subjects. In addition, tyrosine hydroxylase, a marker of noradrenergic vascular innervation, was reduced which may also contribute to a loss of control of vasoconstriction. The data highlight the importance of the brain microcirculation in the pathogenesis and evolution of AD.
PMCID: PMC3353981  PMID: 22615835
21.  A Mutual Self- and Informant-Report of Cognitive Complaint Correlates with Neuropathological Outcomes in Mild Cognitive Impairment 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(11):e0141831.
This study examines whether different sources of cognitive complaint (i.e., self and informant) predict Alzheimer’s disease (AD) neuropathology in elders with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Data were drawn from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center Uniform and Neuropathology Datasets (observational studies) for participants with a clinical diagnosis of MCI and postmortem examination (n = 1843, 74±8 years, 52% female). Cognitive complaint (0.9±0.5 years prior to autopsy) was classified into four mutually exclusive groups: no complaint, self-only, informant-only, or mutual (both self and informant) complaint. Postmortem neuropathological outcomes included amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Proportional odds regression related complaint to neuropathology, adjusting for age, sex, race, education, depressed mood, cognition, APOE4 status, and last clinical visit to death interval.
Mutual complaint related to increased likelihood of meeting NIA/Reagan Institute (OR = 6.58, p = 0.004) and Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer’s Disease criteria (OR = 5.82, p = 0.03), and increased neurofibrillary tangles (OR = 3.70, p = 0.03), neuritic plaques (OR = 3.52, p = 0.03), and diffuse plaques (OR = 4.35, p = 0.02). Informant-only and self-only complaint was not associated with any neuropathological outcome (all p-values>0.12).
In MCI, mutual cognitive complaint relates to AD pathology whereas self-only or informant-only complaint shows no relation to pathology. Findings support cognitive complaint as a marker of unhealthy brain aging and highlight the importance of obtaining informant corroboration to increase confidence of underlying pathological processes.
PMCID: PMC4634952  PMID: 26539829
22.  Neurotrophic factors in Alzheimer’s disease: role of axonal transport 
Genes, Brain, and Behavior  2008;7(1):43-56.
Neurotrophic factors (NTF) are small, versatile proteins that maintain survival and function to specific neuronal populations. In general, the axonal transport of NTF is important as not all of them are synthesized at the site of its action. Nerve growth factor (NGF), for instance, is produced in the neocortex and the hippocampus and then retrogradely transported to the cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain. Neurodegenerative dementias like Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are linked to deficits in axonal transport. Furthermore, they are also associated with imbalanced distribution and dysregulation of NTF. In particular, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a crucial role in cognition, learning and memory formation by modulating synaptic plasticity and is, therefore, a critical molecule in dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we review the changes of NTF expression and distribution (NGF, BDNF, neurotrophin-3, neurotrophin-4/5 and fibroblast growth factor-2) and their receptors [tropomyosin-related kinase (Trk)A, TrkB, TrkC and p75NTR] in AD and AD models. In addition, we focus on the interaction with neuropathological hallmarks Tau/neurofibrillary tangle and amyloid-β (Abeta)/amyloid plaque pathology and their influence on axonal transport processes in order to unify AD-specific cholinergic degeneration and Tau and Abeta misfolding through NTF pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC2228393  PMID: 18184369
Abeta; APP; BDNF; cholinergic neurons; dementia; neurodegeneration; NGF; NT-3; NT-4/5; Tau
23.  Clinically concordant variations of Alzheimer pathology in aphasic versus amnestic dementia 
Brain  2012;135(5):1554-1565.
Primary progressive aphasia is a neurodegenerative syndrome characterized by gradual dissolution of language but relative sparing of other cognitive domains, especially memory. It is associated with asymmetric atrophy in the language-dominant hemisphere (usually left), and differs from typical Alzheimer-type dementia where amnesia is the primary deficit. Various pathologies have been reported, including the tangles and plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. Identification of Alzheimer pathology in these aphasic patients is puzzling since tangles and related neuronal loss in Alzheimer’s disease typically emerge in memory-related structures such as entorhinal cortex and spread to language-related neocortex later in the disease. Furthermore, Alzheimer pathology is typically symmetric. How can a predominantly limbic and symmetric pathology cause the primary progressive aphasia phenotype, characterized by relative preservation of memory and asymmetric predilection for the language-dominant hemisphere? Initial investigations into the possibility that Alzheimer pathology displays an atypical distribution in primary progressive aphasia yielded inconclusive results. The current study was based on larger groups of patients with either primary progressive aphasia or a typical amnestic dementia. Alzheimer pathology was the principal diagnosis in all cases. The goal was to determine whether Alzheimer pathology had clinically-concordant, and hence different distributions in these two phenotypes. Stereological counts of tangles and plaques revealed greater leftward asymmetry for tangles in primary progressive aphasia but not in the amnestic Alzheimer-type dementia (P < 0.05). Five of seven aphasics had more leftward tangle asymmetry in all four neocortical regions analysed, whereas this pattern was not seen in any of the predominantly amnestic cases. One aphasic case displayed higher right-hemisphere tangle density despite greater left-hemisphere hypoperfusion and atrophy during life. Although there were more tangles in the memory-related entorhinal cortex than in language-related neocortical areas in both phenotypes (P < 0.0001), the ratio of neocortical-to-entorhinal tangles was significantly higher in the aphasic cases (P = 0.034). Additionally, overall numbers of tangles and plaques were greater in the aphasic than amnestic cases (P < 0.05), especially in neocortical areas. No significant hemispheric asymmetry was found in plaque distribution, reinforcing the conclusion that tangles have greater clinical concordance than plaques in the spectrum of Alzheimer pathologies. The presence of left-sided tangle predominance and higher neocortical-to-entorhinal tangle ratio in primary progressive aphasia establishes clinical concordance of Alzheimer pathology with the aphasic phenotype. The one case with reversed asymmetry, however, suggests that these concordant clinicopathological relationships are not universal and that individual primary progressive aphasia cases with Alzheimer pathology exist where distributions of plaques and tangles do not account for the observed phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3338929  PMID: 22522938
neurodegenerative disorders; primary progressive aphasia; AD pathology; hemispheric differences; stereology
24.  Specific changes of sulfatide levels in individuals with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease: an early event in disease pathogenesis 
Journal of neurochemistry  2013;127(6):10.1111/jnc.12368.
To explore the hypothesis that alterations in cellular membrane lipids are present at the stage of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (i.e., cognitively normal at death, but with AD neuropathology), we performed targeted shotgun lipidomics of lipid extracts from postmortem brains of subjects with preclinical AD. We found sulfatide levels were significantly lower in subjects with preclinical AD compared to those without AD neuropathology. We also found that the level of ethanolamine glycerophospholipid was marginally lower at this stage of AD, whereas changes of the ceramide levels were undetectable with the available samples. These results indicate that cellular membrane defects are present at the earliest stages of AD pathogenesis and also suggest that sulfatide loss is among the earliest events of AD development, while alterations in the levels of ethanolamine glycerophospholipid and ceramide occur relatively later in disease.
PMCID: PMC3844035  PMID: 23865640
Ceramide; membrane lipids; plasmalogen; preclinical Alzheimer’s disease; shotgun lipidomics; sulfatide
25.  Complement activation fragment C5a receptors, CD88 and C5L2, are associated with neurofibrillary pathology 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative dementia characterized by the decline of cognition and the presence of neuropathological changes including neuronal loss, neurofibrillary pathology and extracellular senile plaques. A neuroinflammatory process is also triggered and complement activation has been hypothesized to have a relevant role in this local inflammatory response. C5a, a proinflammatory anaphylatoxin generated after complement activation, exerts its chemotactic and inflammatory functions through the CD88 receptor while the more recently discovered C5L2 receptor has been postulated to have an anti-inflammatory role. Previously, we reported that a CD88 specific antagonist (PMX205) decreased the pathology and improved cognition in transgenic models of AD suggesting that C5a/C5aR interaction has an important role in the progression of the disease.
The present study characterizes the expression of the two receptors for C5a in human brain with confirmed post mortem diagnosis of vascular dementia (VD) or AD as well as age matched controls by immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis using several antibodies against different epitopes of the human receptors.
The CD88 and C5L2 antibodies revealed increased expression of both receptors in AD samples as compared to age-matched controls or VD brain tissue by Western blot and immunohistochemistry, using multiple antibodies and distinct cohorts of brain tissue. Immunostaining showed that both the C5L2 and CD88 antibodies similarly labeled abundant neurofibrillary tangles, neuropil threads and dystrophic neurites associated with plaques in the hippocampus and frontal cortex of AD cases. In contrast, little or no neuronal staining, tangles or dystrophic neurites associated with plaques were observed in control or VD brains. CD88 and C5L2 receptors are associated with both early (AT8) and mature (PHF1) neurofibrillary tangles and can be found either independently or colocalized with each other.
The observed association of CD88 and C5L2 with neurofibrillary pathology suggests a common altered pathway of degradation.
PMCID: PMC3605123  PMID: 23394121
C5a receptors; CD88; C5L2; Alzheimer’s disease; Complement; Neuropathology; Tangles

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