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1.  Neuropathologic Heterogeneity Does Not Impair Florbetapir-PET Postmortem Correlates 
Neuropathologic heterogeneity is often present within Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We sought to determine if amyloid imaging measures of AD are affected by concurrent pathologies. Thirty-eight clinicopathologically-defined AD and 17 non-demented cases (ND) with quantitative florbetapir F-18 (18F-AV-45) PET imaging during life and histological β-amyloid quantification and neuropathologic examination were assessed. AD cases were divided on the basis of concurrent pathologies, including those with Lewy bodies (N=21), white matter rarefaction (N=27), severe cerebral amyloid angiopathy (N=11), argyrophilic grains (N=5) and TDP-43 inclusions (N=18). Many cases exhibited more than one type of concurrent pathology. The ratio of cortical to cerebellar amyloid imaging signal (SUVr) and immunohistochemical β-amyloid load were analyzed in six cortical regions of interest. All AD subgroups had strong and significant correlations between SUVr and histological β-amyloid measures (p values <0.001). All AD subgroups had significantly greater amyloid measures compared to ND, and mean amyloid measures did not significantly differ between AD subgroups. When comparing AD cases with and without each pathology, AD cases with Lewy bodies had significantly decreased SUVr measures compared to AD cases without (p = 0.002); there were no other paired comparison differences. These findings indicate florbetapir-PET imaging is not confounded by neuropathological heterogeneity within AD.
PMCID: PMC4037918  PMID: 24335535
argyrophilic grains; autopsy; cerebral amyloid angiopathy; Lewy bodies; plaques; TDP-43; vascular dementia; white matter; leuko-araiosis
2.  Neuropathological and biochemical assessments of an Alzheimer’s disease patient treated with the γ-secretase inhibitor semagacestat 
Amyloid deposition has been implicated as the key determinant of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis. Interventions to antagonize amyloid accumulation and mitigate dementia are now under active investigation. We conducted a combined clinical, biochemical and neuropathological assessment of a participant in a clinical trial of the γ-secretase inhibitor, semagacestat. This patient received a daily oral dose of 140 mg of semagacestat for approximately 76 weeks. Levels of brain amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides were quantified using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Western blot/scanning densitometry was performed to reveal BACE1, presenilin1, amyloid precursor protein (APP) and its proteolysis-produced C-terminal peptides APP-CT99 and APP-CT83 as well as several γ-secretase substrates. To serve as a frame of reference, the ELISA and Western analyses were performed in parallel on samples from neuropathologically confirmed non-demented control (NDC) and AD subjects who did not receive semagacestat. Neuropathology findings confirmed a diagnosis of AD with frequent amyloid deposits and neurofibrillary tangles in most areas of the cortex and subcortical nuclei as well as cerebellar amyloid plaques. Mean levels of Tris-soluble Aβ40 and glass-distilled formic acid (GDFA)/guanidine hydrochloride (GHCl)-extractable Aβ40 in the frontal lobe and GDFA/GHCl-soluble Aβ40 in the temporal lobe were increased 4.2, 9.5 and 7.7-fold, respectively, in the semagacestat-treated subject compared to those observed in the non-treated AD group. In addition, GDFA/GHCl-extracted Aβ42 was increased 2-fold in the temporal lobe relative to non-treated AD cases. No major changes in APP, β- and γ-secretase and CT99/CT83 were observed between the semagacestat-treated subject compared to either NDC or AD cases. Furthermore, the levels of γ-secretase substrates in the semagacestat-treated subject and the reference groups were also similar. Interestingly, there were significant alterations in the levels of several γ-secretase substrates between the NDC and non-treated AD subjects. This is the first reported case study of an individual enrolled in the semagacestat clinical trial. The subject of this study remained alive for ~7 months after treatment termination, therefore it is difficult to conclude whether the outcomes observed represent a consequence of semagacestat therapy. Additional evaluations of trial participants, including several who expired during the course of treatment, may provide vital clarification regarding the impacts and aftermath of γ-secretase inhibition.
PMCID: PMC4299724  PMID: 25628963
Alzheimer’s disease; semagacestat immunotherapy; Alzheimer’s clinical trial; γ-secretase; γ-secretase inhibitors; γ-secretase substrates; amyloid-β
3.  Autonomic complaints in patients with Restless Leg Syndrome 
Sleep medicine  2013;14(12):1413-1416.
Data regarding autonomic function in restless legs syndrome (RLS) is limited to heart rate and blood pressure changes in cases having periodic limb movements (PLMS).
We compared autonomic symptoms of 49 subjects with RLS vs. 291 Controls using the SCOPA-Autonomic questionnaire (23 items in six domains scored 0–3). The total score and domain scores were transformed to 0 to 100 points. Subjects with neurodegenerative disorders (i.e. dementia, parkinsonism) were excluded.
The RLS group was younger (mean±SD 77.9 ± 8.0 vs. 80.5 ± 7.9 yrs, p=.03) and had more women (84% vs. 69%, p=.04). The mean SCOPA-Aut Total score was higher in the RLS group compared with Controls (20 ± 11 vs. 16 ± 9, p= .005). Additionally the RLS group had abnormalities in GI, cardiovascular, and pupillomotor domains. When comparing the percentage of subjects with any complaint on individual questions (score of ≥ 1) the RLS group had a greater number of subjects with sialorrhea, constipation, early abdominal fullness, lightheadedness when standing, and heat intolerance.
Autonomic complaints, especially GI, cardiovascular, and oversensitivity to light, are significantly increased in subjects with RLS. Causes for autonomic dysfunction in RLS require further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4105217  PMID: 24152795
Restless Leg Syndrome; Autonomic symptoms
4.  TDP-43 Deposition in Prospectively Followed, Cognitively Normal Elderly Individuals: Correlation with Argyrophilic Grains but not Other Concomitant Pathologies 
Acta neuropathologica  2013;126(1):51-57.
TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) has been heavily researched in recent years due to its involvement in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Several studies have also sought to investigate the frequency of TDP-43 deposition in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, but there has been relatively little work focused on the prevalence, distribution and histopathological associations of abnormal TDP-43 deposits in the brains of cognitively normal elderly subjects. We screened thick, free-floating coronal sections of mesial temporal lobe from 110 prospectively-followed and autopsied cognitively normal subjects (age range 71–100 years) using an immunohistochemical method for phosphorylated TDP-43. We found a 36.4% prevalence of pathologic TDP-43, mostly in the form of neurites while perikaryal cytoplasmic neuronal inclusions were uncommon and intranuclear inclusions were rare. With respect to other concomitant pathologies commonly found in elderly individuals, cases with TDP-43 had a greater prevalence of argyrophilic grains (ARG) (40% vs. 18.6%) and overall ARG density (moderate vs. sparse). There were no additional associations with other concomitant pathologies, including cerebral white matter rarefaction, incidental Lewy bodies, neurofibrillary tangles or amyloid plaques. These results indicate deposition of TDP-43 occurs in a substantial subset of cognitively normal elderly subjects and is more common in those with ARG, supporting some previous studies linking pathological TDP-43 deposition with ARG and other pathological tau protein deposits.
PMCID: PMC3691299  PMID: 23604587
amygdala; hippocampus; TAR DNA binding protein; aging; neuropathology; argyrophilic grains
5.  Associations of repeat sizes with clinical and pathological characteristics in C9ORF72 expansion carriers (Xpansize-72): a cross-sectional cohort study 
Lancet neurology  2013;12(10):10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70210-2.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are currently the major genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Presently, it is unknown whether expansion size affects disease severity or phenotypes.
We performed a cross-sectional Southern blot characterization study (Xpansize-72) in a cohort of subjects obtained at the Mayo Clinic and Banner Sun Health Research Institute. All subjects carried GGGGCC repeat expansions in C9ORF72, and high quality DNA was available from the frontal cortex, cerebellum and/or blood. Southern blotting techniques and densitometry were employed to estimate the repeat size of the most abundant expansion species. Comparisons of repeat sizes between tissues were made using Wilcoxon rank sum and Wilcoxon signed rank tests, and between disease subgroups using Kruskal-Wallis rank sum tests. The association of repeat size with age at onset and age at collection was evaluated using a Spearman’s test of correlation; whereas the association between repeat size and survival after disease onset was examined using Cox proportional hazards regression models.
Our cohort consisted of 84 C9ORF72 expansion carriers, including FTD patients (n=35), FTD/MND patients (n=16), MND patients (n=30), and unaffected subjects (n=3). We focused our analysis on three major tissue subgroups: frontal cortex (41 subjects [21 FTD, 11 FTD/MND, 9 MND]), cerebellum (40 subjects [20 FTD, 12 FTD/MND, 8 MND]), and blood (50 subjects [15 FTD, 9 FTD/MND, 23 MND, 3 unaffected expansion carriers]). Repeat lengths in the cerebellum were significantly smaller (median 12·3 kb [~1667 repeat units], IQR 11·1–14·3) than in the frontal cortex (median 33·8 kb [~5250 repeat units], IQR 23·5–44·9, p<0·0001), or in blood (median 18·6 kb [~2717 repeat units], IQR 13·9–28·1, p=0·0002). Within these tissues, there was no significant difference in repeat length between disease subgroups (cerebellum p=0·96, frontal cortex p=0·27, blood p=0·10). In the frontal cortex of FTD patients, repeat length correlated with age at onset (r=0·63, p=0·003) and age at collection (r=0·58, p=0·006); this correlation was not detected in the cerebellum or blood. Finally, only in the cerebellum, survival after disease onset was poorer in patients from our overall cohort with repeat lengths greater than 1467 repeat units (25th percentile, HR 3·27, 95% CI 1·34–7·95, p=0·009): the median survival was 4·8 years (IQR 3·0–7·4) in the group with longer expansions versus 7·4 years (IQR 6·3–10·9) in the group with smaller expansions.
Substantial variation in repeat size is observed between cerebellum, frontal cortex, and blood; relatively long repeat sizes in the cerebellum confer an important survival disadvantage. Our findings indicate that expansion size does affect disease severity, which could be relevant for genetic counseling.
PMCID: PMC3879782  PMID: 24011653
6.  Genetic modifiers in carriers of repeat expansions in the C9ORF72 gene 
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are causative for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Substantial phenotypic heterogeneity has been described in patients with these expansions. We set out to identify genetic modifiers of disease risk, age at onset, and survival after onset that may contribute to this clinical variability.
We examined a cohort of 330 C9ORF72 expansion carriers and 374 controls. In these individuals, we assessed variants previously implicated in FTD and/or MND; 36 variants were included in our analysis. After adjustment for multiple testing, our analysis revealed three variants significantly associated with age at onset (rs7018487 [UBAP1; p-value = 0.003], rs6052771 [PRNP; p-value = 0.003], and rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.003]), and six variants significantly associated with survival after onset (rs5848 [GRN; p-value = 0.001], rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.001], rs13268953 [ELP3; p-value = 0.003], the epsilon 4 allele [APOE; p-value = 0.004], rs12608932 [UNC13A; p-value = 0.003], and rs1800435 [ALAD; p-value = 0.003]).
Variants identified through this study were previously reported to be involved in FTD and/or MND, but we are the first to describe their effects as potential disease modifiers in the presence of a clear pathogenic mutation (i.e. C9ORF72 repeat expansion). Although validation of our findings is necessary, these variants highlight the importance of protein degradation, antioxidant defense and RNA-processing pathways, and additionally, they are promising targets for the development of therapeutic strategies and prognostic tests.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1750-1326-9-38) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4190282  PMID: 25239657
C9ORF72; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; Genetic modifier; Repeat expansion
7.  Positive Florbetapir PET Amyloid Imaging in a Subject with Frequent Cortical Neuritic Plaques and Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration with TDP43-Positive Inclusions 
Abnormal neuronal accumulation and modification of TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) have recently been discovered to be defining histopathological features of particular subtypes of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and are also common in aging, particularly coexisting with hippocampal sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology. This case report describes a 72 year old Hispanic male with no family history of neurological disease, who presented at age 59 with obsessive behavior, anxiety, agitation and dysphasia. Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging using the amyloid ligand 18F florbetapir (Amyvid) was positive. Postmortem examination revealed frequent diffuse and neuritic amyloid plaques throughout the cerebral cortex, thalamus and striatum, Braak stage II neurofibrillary degeneration and frequent frontal and temporal cortex TDP-43-positive neurites with rare nuclear inclusions. The case is unusual and instructive because of the co-existence of frequent cortical and diencephalic amyloid plaques with extensive TDP-43-positive histopathology in the setting of early-onset dementia and because it demonstrates that a positive cortical amyloid imaging signal in a subject with dementia does not necessarily establish that AD is the sole cause.
PMCID: PMC4167919  PMID: 24927705
Alzheimer's disease; frontotemporal dementia; neurofibrillary degeneration; neuritic amyloid plaques
8.  In vitro-differentiated neural cell cultures progress towards donor-identical brain tissue 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(17):3534-3546.
Multiple research groups have observed neuropathological phenotypes and molecular symptoms in vitro using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neural cell cultures (i.e. patient-specific neurons and glia). However, the global differences/similarities that may exist between in vitro neural cells and their tissue-derived counterparts remain largely unknown. In this study, we compared temporal series of iPSC-derived in vitro neural cell cultures to endogenous brain tissue from the same autopsy donor. Specifically, we utilized RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to evaluate the transcriptional progression of in vitro-differentiated neural cells (over a timecourse of 0, 35, 70, 105 and 140 days), and compared this with donor-identical temporal lobe tissue. We observed in vitro progression towards the reference brain tissue, and the following three results support this conclusion: (i) there was a significant increasing monotonic correlation between the days of our timecourse and the number of actively transcribed protein-coding genes and long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) (P < 0.05), consistent with the transcriptional complexity of the brain; (ii) there was an increase in CpG methylation after neural differentiation that resembled the epigenomic signature of the endogenous tissue; and (iii) there was a significant decreasing monotonic correlation between the days of our timecourse and the percent of in vitro to brain-tissue differences (P < 0.05) for tissue-specific protein-coding genes and all putative lincRNAs. Taken together, these results are consistent with in vitro neural development and physiological progression occurring predominantly by transcriptional activation of downregulated genes rather than deactivation of upregulated genes.
PMCID: PMC3736871  PMID: 23666530
9.  Biochemical Assessment of Precuneus and Posterior Cingulate Gyrus in the Context of Brain Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105784.
Defining the biochemical alterations that occur in the brain during “normal” aging is an important part of understanding the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases and of distinguishing pathological conditions from aging-associated changes. Three groups were selected based on age and on having no evidence of neurological or significant neurodegenerative disease: 1) young adult individuals, average age 26 years (n = 9); 2) middle-aged subjects, average age 59 years (n = 5); 3) oldest-old individuals, average age 93 years (n = 6). Using ELISA and Western blotting methods, we quantified and compared the levels of several key molecules associated with neurodegenerative disease in the precuneus and posterior cingulate gyrus, two brain regions known to exhibit early imaging alterations during the course of Alzheimer’s disease. Our experiments revealed that the bioindicators of emerging brain pathology remained steady or decreased with advancing age. One exception was S100B, which significantly increased with age. Along the process of aging, neurofibrillary tangle deposition increased, even in the absence of amyloid deposition, suggesting the presence of amyloid plaques is not obligatory for their development and that limited tangle density is a part of normal aging. Our study complements a previous assessment of neuropathology in oldest-old subjects, and within the limitations of the small number of individuals involved in the present investigation, it adds valuable information to the molecular and structural heterogeneity observed along the course of aging and dementia. This work underscores the need to examine through direct observation how the processes of amyloid deposition unfold or change prior to the earliest phases of dementia emergence.
PMCID: PMC4148328  PMID: 25166759
10.  Submandibular Gland Biopsy for the Diagnosis of Parkinson Disease 
The clinical diagnosis of Parkinson disease (PD) is incorrect in 30% or more of subjects, particularly at the time of symptom onset. Because Lewy-type α-synucleinopathy (LTS) is present in the submandibular glands of PD patients, we assessed the feasibility of submandibular gland biopsy for diagnosing PD. We performed immunohistochemical staining for LTS in sections of large segments (simulating open biopsy) and needle cores of submandibular gland from 128 autopsied and neuropathologically classified subjects, including 28 PD, 5 incidental Lewy body disease, 5 progressive supranuclear palsy ([PSP] 3 with concurrent PD), 3 corticobasal degeneration, 2 multiple system atrophy, 22 Alzheimer disease with Lewy bodies (ADLB), 16 Alzheimer disease without Lewy bodies and 50 normal elderly. Immunoreactive nerve fibers were present in large submandibular gland sections of all 28 PD subjects (including 3 that also had PSP); 3 ADLB subjects were also positive, but none of the other subjects were positive. Cores from frozen submandibular glands taken with 18 gauge needles (total length 15–38 mm, between 10 and 118 sections per subject examined) were positive for LTS in 17 of 19 PD patients. These results suggest that biopsy of the submandibular gland may be a feasible means of improving PD clinical diagnostic accuracy. This would be particularly advantageous for subject selection in early-stage clinical trials, for invasive therapies or for verifying other biomarker studies.
PMCID: PMC3571631  PMID: 23334596
α-Synuclein; Biomarker; Clinical trial; Deep brain stimulation; Gene therapy; Lewy body; Parkinson disease; Surgery; Transplantation
11.  Disease duration and the integrity of the nigrostriatal system in Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(8):2419-2431.
The pace of nigrostriatal degeneration, both with regards to striatal denervation and loss of melanin and tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons, is poorly understood especially early in the Parkinson’s disease process. This study investigated the extent of nigrostriatal degeneration in patients with Parkinson’s disease at different disease durations from time of diagnosis. Brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease (n = 28) with post-diagnostic intervals of 1–27 years and normal elderly control subjects (n = 9) were examined. Sections of the post-commissural putamen and substantia nigra pars compacta were processed for tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine transporter immunohistochemistry. The post-commissural putamen was selected due to tissue availability and the fact that dopamine loss in this region is associated with motor disability in Parkinson’s disease. Quantitative assessments of putaminal dopaminergic fibre density and stereological estimates of the number of melanin-containing and tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (both in total and in subregions) were performed by blinded investigators in cases where suitable material was available (n = 17). Dopaminergic markers in the dorsal putamen showed a modest loss at 1 year after diagnosis in the single case available for study. There was variable (moderate to marked) loss, at 3 years. At 4 years post-diagnosis and thereafter, there was virtually complete loss of staining in the dorsal putamen with only an occasional abnormal dopaminergic fibre detected. In the substantia nigra pars compacta, there was a 50–90% loss of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons from the earliest time points studied with only marginal additional loss thereafter. There was only a ∼10% loss of melanized neurons in the one case evaluated 1 year post-diagnosis, and variable (30 to 60%) loss during the first several years post-diagnosis with more gradual and subtle loss in the second decade. At all time points, there were more melanin-containing than tyrosine hydroxylase-positive cells. Loss of dopaminergic markers in the dorsal putamen occurs rapidly and is virtually complete by 4 years post-diagnosis. Loss of melanized nigral neurons lags behind the loss of dopamine markers. These findings have important implications for understanding the nature of Parkinson’s disease neurodegeneration and for studies of putative neuroprotective/restorative therapies.
PMCID: PMC3722357  PMID: 23884810
Parkinsons disease; human brain; morphometry; substantia nigra; neuroscience
12.  The Distribution of Phosphorylated Tau in Spinal Cords of Alzheimer’s and Non-Demented Individuals 
Abnormal phosphorylation of the microtubule-associated protein tau develops in selected brain regions in normal aging and becomes widespread throughout the brain in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Braak and others have described the distribution of neurofibrillary tangles and deposition of abnormally phosphorylated tau (p-tau) and correlated this with the progressive cognitive dysfunction in AD. However, to date there have been no comprehensive studies examining abnormally phosphorylated tau deposition in the spinal cord as part of normal aging or AD. We investigated, using immunohistochemical methods, the presence of p-tau in the spinal cord of 46 cases with a clinicopathological diagnosis of AD as well as 37 non-demented (ND) individuals lacking any defined central nervous system-related clinicopathological diagnosis. We found the cervical cord segments to be the most frequently affected subdivision (96% AD vs. 43% ND), followed by thoracic (69% AD vs. 37% ND), lumbar (65% AD vs. 27% ND) and sacral (53% AD vs. 13% ND). The spinal cord was often affected at early-stage brain disease, with p-tau spinal cord immunoreactivity in 40% of subjects at Braak neurofibrillary stage I, however, there were no cases having spinal cord p-tau that did not have p-tau within the brain. As p-tau immunoreactivity is present within the spinal cords of ND as well as AD subjects, it is likely that the phosphorylation of spinal cord tau occurs in the preclinical stage of AD, prior to dementia. The presence of significant spinal cord p-tau-immunoreactive pathology has important implications for both the pathogenesis and clinical manifestations of AD.
PMCID: PMC3670745  PMID: 23246918
pathology; autopsy; senile dementia; neurofibrillary tangle; aging; systemic disorder; peripheral nervous system
13.  Quantitative Measurement of Intact Alpha-Synuclein Proteoforms from Post-Mortem Control and Parkinson's Disease Brain Tissue by Intact Protein Mass Spectrometry 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:5797.
A robust top down proteomics method is presented for profiling alpha-synuclein species from autopsied human frontal cortex brain tissue from Parkinson's cases and controls. The method was used to test the hypothesis that pathology associated brain tissue will have a different profile of post-translationally modified alpha-synuclein than the control samples. Validation of the sample processing steps, mass spectrometry based measurements, and data processing steps were performed. The intact protein quantitation method features extraction and integration of m/z data from each charge state of a detected alpha-synuclein species and fitting of the data to a simple linear model which accounts for concentration and charge state variability. The quantitation method was validated with serial dilutions of intact protein standards. Using the method on the human brain samples, several previously unreported modifications in alpha-synuclein were identified. Low levels of phosphorylated alpha synuclein were detected in brain tissue fractions enriched for Lewy body pathology and were marginally significant between PD cases and controls (p = 0.03).
PMCID: PMC4107347  PMID: 25052239
14.  BACE1 Levels by APOE Genotype in Non-Demented and Alzheimer’s Post-Mortem Brains 
Current Alzheimer research  2013;10(3):309-315.
The APOE genotype is a known susceptibility factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It is apparent that the presence of the APOE ε4 allele increases the risk for developing AD, lowers the age of onset in AD, and may influence the pathological burden seen in AD. In this study, we asked whether BACE1 levels differ by APOE genotype in the AD and non-demented (ND) brain. We isolated mid-frontal cortex (MFC) and mid-temporal cortex (MTC) from postmortem ND and AD subjects that were APOE ε3/3, ε3/4, ε4/4 carriers. All AD subjects met NINDS-ADRDA and NIA-Reagan criteria for a diagnosis of AD. The MFC and MTC were homogenized and the lysates underwent ELISA and Western blotting for BACE1. The ELISA revealed that total BACE1 levels were lower in the MFC of AD compared to ND subjects. Furthermore, in APOE ε4 carriers BACE1 levels were lower than ε3/3 carriers in the ND frontal cortex. No difference in BACE1 levels was observed in AD MFC and in ND and AD MTC tissues. The ELISA results were confirmed by Western blotting. Our data suggest that brain BACEl levels may be influenced by the apolipoprotein E genotype before the onset of AD, providing an alternative explanation for the lower amyloid beta 42 levels in CSF in ND and AD subjects.
PMCID: PMC4104947  PMID: 23036023
Alzheimer’s disease; APOE; BACE1; Brain; ELISA; Frontal cortex
15.  Neurochemical Profile of Dementia Pugilistica 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2013;30(11):981-997.
Dementia pugilistica (DP), a suite of neuropathological and cognitive function declines after chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI), is present in approximately 20% of retired boxers. Epidemiological studies indicate TBI is a risk factor for neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer disease (AD) and Parkinson disease (PD). Some biochemical alterations observed in AD and PD may be recapitulated in DP and other TBI persons. In this report, we investigate long-term biochemical changes in the brains of former boxers with neuropathologically confirmed DP. Our experiments revealed biochemical and cellular alterations in DP that are complementary to and extend information already provided by histological methods. ELISA and one-dimensional and two dimensional Western blot techniques revealed differential expression of select molecules between three patients with DP and three age-matched non-demented control (NDC) persons without a history of TBI. Structural changes such as disturbances in the expression and processing of glial fibrillary acidic protein, tau, and α-synuclein were evident. The levels of the Aβ–degrading enzyme neprilysin were reduced in the patients with DP. Amyloid-β levels were elevated in the DP participant with the concomitant diagnosis of AD. In addition, the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and the axonal transport proteins kinesin and dynein were substantially decreased in DP relative to NDC participants. Traumatic brain injury is a risk factor for dementia development, and our findings are consistent with permanent structural and functional damage in the cerebral cortex and white matter of boxers. Understanding the precise threshold of damage needed for the induction of pathology in DP and TBI is vital.
PMCID: PMC3684215  PMID: 23268705
adult brain injury; axonal injury; immunoblots; neurodegenerative disorders; traumatic brain injury
16.  Parkinson Disease Affects Peripheral Sensory Nerves in the Pharynx 
Dysphagia is very common in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and often leads to aspiration pneumonia, the most common cause of death in PD. Unfortunately, current therapies are largely ineffective for dysphagia. As pharyngeal sensation normally triggers the swallowing reflex, we examined pharyngeal sensory nerves in PD for Lewy pathology. Sensory nerves supplying the pharynx were excised from autopsied pharynges obtained from patients with clinically diagnosed and neuropathologically confirmed PD (n = 10) and healthy age-matched controls (n = 4). We examined: the glossopharyngeal nerve (IX); the pharyngeal sensory branch of the vagus nerve (PSB-X); and the internal superior laryngeal nerve (ISLN) innervating the laryngopharynx. Immunohistochemistry for phosphorylated α-synuclein was used to detect potential Lewy pathology. Axonal α-synuclein aggregates in the pharyngeal sensory nerves were identified in all of the PD subjects but not in the controls. The density of α-synuclein-positive lesions was significantly greater in PD subjects with documented dysphagia compared to those without dysphagia. In addition, α-synuclein-immunoreactive nerve fibers in the ISLN were much more abundant than those in the IX and PSBX. These findings suggest that pharyngeal sensory nerves are directly affected by the pathologic process of PD. This anatomic pathology may decrease pharyngeal sensation impairing swallowing and airway protective reflexes, thereby contributing to dysphagia and aspiration.
PMCID: PMC3695629  PMID: 23771215
Alpha-synuclein aggregates; Dysphagia; Glossopharyngeal nerve; Immunohistochemistry; Internal superior laryngeal nerve; Lewy neurites; Nerve degeneration; Parkinson disease; Peripheral nervous system; Pharyngeal sensory nerves; Pharynx; Swallowing; Vagus nerve
17.  Accuracy of the Clinical Diagnosis of Alzheimer Disease at National Institute on Aging Alzheimer's Disease Centers, 2005–2010 
The neuropathological examination is considered to provide the gold standard for Alzheimer disease (AD). To determine the accuracy of currently employed clinical diagnostic methods, clinical and neuropathological data from the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center (NACC), which gathers information from the network of National Institute on Aging (NIA)-sponsored Alzheimer's Disease Centers (ADCs), were collected as part of the NACC Uniform Data Set (UDS) between 2005 and 2010. A database search initially included all 1198 subjects with at least one UDS clinical assessment and who had died and been autopsied; 279 were excluded as being not demented or because critical data fields were missing. The final subject number was 919. Sensitivity and specificity were determined based on “probable” and “possible” AD levels of clinical confidence and 4 levels of neuropathological confidence based on varying neuritic plaque densities and Braak neurofibrillary stages. Sensitivity ranged from 70.9% to 87.3%; specificity ranged from 44.3% to 70.8%. Sensitivity was generally increased with more permissive clinical criteria and specificity was increased with more restrictive criteria, whereas the opposite was true for neuropathological criteria. When a clinical diagnosis was not confirmed by minimum levels of AD histopathology, the most frequent primary neuropathological diagnoses were tangle-only dementia or argyrophilic grain disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, cerebrovascular disease, Lewy body disease and hippocampal sclerosis. When dementia was not clinically diagnosed as AD, 39% of these cases met or exceeded minimum threshold levels of AD histopathology. Neurologists of the NIA-ADCs had higher predictive accuracy when they diagnosed AD in demented subjects than when they diagnosed dementing diseases other than AD. The misdiagnosis rate should be considered when estimating subject numbers for AD studies, including clinical trials and epidemiological studies.
PMCID: PMC3331862  PMID: 22437338
Alzheimer disease; Autopsy; Clinical trials; Diagnosis; Histopathology; Neuropathology; Non-Alzheimer dementia
18.  α-Synuclein Pathology and Axonal Degeneration of the Peripheral Motor Nerves Innervating Pharyngeal Muscles in Parkinson’s Disease 
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease primarily characterized by cardinal motor symptoms and central nervous system pathology. As current drug therapies can often stabilize these cardinal motor symptoms attention has shifted to the other motor and non-motor symptoms of PD which are resistant to drug therapy. Dysphagia in PD is perhaps the most important drug resistant symptom as it leads to aspiration and pneumonia, the leading cause of death. Here, we present direct evidence for degeneration of the pharyngeal motor nerves in PD. In this study, we examined the cervical vagal (X) nerve, pharyngeal branch of the X nerve (Ph-X), and pharyngeal plexus innervating the pharyngeal muscles in 14 postmortem specimens, 10 subjects with PD and 4 age-matched control subjects. Synucleinopathy in the pharyngeal nerves was detected using an immunohistochemical method for phosphorylated α-synuclein. α-Synuclein aggregates were revealed in the X nerve and Ph-X and immunoreactive intramuscular nerve twigs and axon terminals within the neuromuscular junctions were identified in all the PD subjects and in none of the controls. These findings indicate that the motor nervous system of the pharynx is involved in the pathological process of PD. Notably, PD subjects with dysphagia had a higher density of α-synuclein aggregates in the pharyngeal nerves as compared with those without dysphagia. Motor involvement of the pharynx in PD appears to be one of the factors leading to oropharyngeal dysphagia commonly seen in PD patients.
PMCID: PMC3552335  PMID: 23334595
α-Synuclein aggregates; Dysphagia; Immunohistochemistry; Intramuscular nerve twigs; Lewy bodies; Lewy neurites; Motor nerve; Nerve degeneration; Parkinson’s disease; Peripheral nervous system; Pharyngeal constrictor muscles; Pharyngeal plexus; Swallowing; Upper esophageal sphincter; Vagus nerve
19.  Changes in Properties of Serine 129 Phosphorylated α-Synuclein with Progression of Lewy Type Histopathology in Human Brains 
Experimental neurology  2012;240:190-204.
Modifications of α-synuclein resulting in changes in its conformation are considered to be key pathological events for Lewy body diseases (LBD), which include Parkinson’s disease (PD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). We have previously described a histopathological Unified Staging System for LBD that classifies the spread of α-synuclein phosphorylated at serine 129 (pS129-α-synuclein) from olfactory bulb to brainstem or limbic regions, and finally neocortex. Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites are highly enriched in pS129-α-synuclein. Increased formation of pS129-α-synuclein changes its solubility properties enhancing its tendency to aggregate and disrupt normal function. As in vitro and animal studies have shown that inhibiting formation of pS129-α-synuclein can prevent toxic consequences, this has become one of the therapeutic targets for LBD. However, detailed biochemical descriptions of the changes in pS129-α-synuclein properties in diseased human brains are needed to further our understanding of how these might contribute to molecular pathogenesis. In this study, we used 130 separate brain samples from cingulate cortex (limbic cortex) and 131 from temporal cortex (neocortex) that had been staged according to our Unified Staging System to examine progressive changes in properties of pS129-α-synuclein with the formation of progressively more severe histological Lewy-type pathology. The brain samples from these staged cases had been separated into cytosol-enriched, membrane-enriched (detergent soluble) and insoluble (ureas/SDS soluble) fractions. We also characterized the nature and appearance of higher molecular weight forms of pS129-α-synuclein. The major species was the 16 kD monomeric form; this accumulated with increasing stage with a large increase in Stage IV samples. By comparing two brain regions, we showed higher accumulation of insoluble pS129-α-synuclein in cingulate cortex, where histological deposits occur first, than in temporal cortex in samples with advanced (Stage IV) LB pathology.
PMCID: PMC3720241  PMID: 23201181
Western blots; Parkinson’s disease; antibodies; fractionation; post-translational modification; postmortem brain tissue; dementia with Lewy bodies; incidental Lewy body disease; pathogenesis; aggregation
20.  Presence of Striatal Amyloid Plaques in Parkinson’s Disease Dementia Predicts Concomitant Alzheimer’s Disease: Usefulness for Amyloid Imaging 
Dementia is a frequent complication of Parkinson’s disease (PD). About half of PD dementia (PDD) is hypothesized to be due to progression of the underlying Lewy body pathology into limbic regions and the cerebral cortex while the other half is thought to be due to coexistent Alzheimer’s disease. Clinically, however, these are indistinguishable. The spread of amyloid plaques to the striatum has been reported to be a sensitive and specific indicator of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The purpose of the present study was to determine if the presence of striatal plaques might also be a useful indicator of the presence of diagnostic levels of AD pathology within PD subjects. We analyzed neuropathologically-confirmed cases of PD without dementia (PDND, N = 31), PDD without AD (PDD, N = 31) and PD with dementia meeting clinicopathological criteria for AD (PDAD, N =40). The minimum diagnostic criterion for AD was defined as including a clinical history of dementia, moderate or frequent CERAD cortical neuritic plaque density and Braak neurofibrillary stage III–VI. Striatal amyloid plaque densities were determined using Campbell-Switzer and Thioflavine S stains. Striatal plaque densities were significantly higher in PDAD compared to PDD (p<0.001). The presence of striatal plaques was approximately 80% sensitive and 80% specific for predicting AD. In comparison, the presence of cerebral cortex plaques alone was highly sensitive (100%) but had poor specificity (48% to 55%). The results suggest that striatal amyloid imaging may be clinically useful for making the distinction between PDD and PDAD.
PMCID: PMC3423968  PMID: 22924088
striatum; Lewy body; diagnosis; autopsy; neuropathology; biomarker
21.  Alzheimer Disease Periventricular White Matter Lesions Exhibit Specific Proteomic Profile Alterations 
Neurochemistry international  2012;62(2):145-156.
The white matter (WM) represents approximately half the cerebrum volume and is profoundly affected in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, both the WM responses to AD as well as potential influences of this compartment to dementia pathogenesis remain comparatively neglected. Neuroimaging studies have revealed WM alterations are commonly associated with AD and renewed interest in examining the pathologic basis and importance of these changes.
In AD subjects, immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy revealed changes in astrocyte morphology and myelin loss as well as up to 30% axonal loss in areas of WM rarefaction when measured against non-demented control (NDC) tissue. Comparative proteomic analyses were performed on pooled samples of periventricular WM (PVWM) obtained from AD (n = 4) and NDC (n = 5) subjects with both groups having a mean age of death of 86 years. All subjects had an apolipoprotein E ε3/3 genotype with the exception of one NDC subject who was ε2/3. Urea-detergent homogenates were analyzed using two different separation techniques: 2-dimensional isoelectric focusing/reverse-phase chromatography and 2-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE). Proteins with different expression levels between the 2 diagnostic groups were identified using MALDI-Tof/Tof mass spectrometry. In addition, Western blots were used to quantify proteins of interest in individual AD and NDC cases.
Our proteomic studies revealed that when WM protein pools were loaded at equal amounts of total protein for comparative analyses, there were quantitative differences between the 2 groups. Molecules related to cytoskeleton maintenance, calcium metabolism and cellular survival such as glial fibrillary acidic protein, vimentin, tropomyosin, collapsin response mediator protein-2, calmodulin, S100-P, annexin A1, α-internexin, α-and β-synuclein, α-B-crystalline, fascin-1, ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase and thymosine were altered between AD and NDC pools.
Our experiments suggest that WM activities become globally impaired during the course of AD with significant morphological, biochemical and functional consequential implications for gray matter function and cognitive deficits. These observations may endorse the hypothesis that WM dysfunction is not only a consequence of AD pathology, but that it may precipitate and/or potentiate AD dementia.
PMCID: PMC3568229  PMID: 23231993
Alzheimer’s disease; periventricular white matter; white matter rarefaction; proteomics; glial fibrillary acidic protein; axonal loss; myelin loss
22.  Characteristics of patients misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and their medication use: an analysis of the NACC-UDS database 
BMC Geriatrics  2013;13:137.
This study compared individuals whose clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) matched or did not match neuropathologic results at autopsy on clinical and functional outcomes (cognitive impairment, functional status and neuropsychiatric symptoms). The study also assessed the extent of potentially inappropriate medication use (using potentially unnecessary medications or potentially inappropriate prescribing) among misdiagnosed patients.
Longitudinal data from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center Uniform Data Set (NACC-UDS, 2005–2010) and corresponding NACC neuropathological data were utilized to compare 88 misdiagnosed and 438 accurately diagnosed patients.
Following adjustment of sociodemographic characteristics, the misdiagnosed were found to have less severe cognitive and functional impairment. However, after statistical adjustment for sociodemographics, dementia severity level, time since onset of cognitive decline and probable AD diagnosis at baseline, the groups significantly differed on only one outcome: the misdiagnosed were less likely to be depressed/dysphoric. Among the misdiagnosed, 18.18% were treated with potentially inappropriate medication. An additional analysis noted this rate could be as high as 67.10%.
Findings highlight the importance of making an accurate AD diagnosis to help reduce unnecessary treatment and increase appropriate therapy. Additional research is needed to demonstrate the link between potentially inappropriate treatment and adverse health outcomes in misdiagnosed AD patients.
PMCID: PMC3878261  PMID: 24354549
Alzheimer disease; Diagnosis; Misdiagnosis; Autopsy; Neuropathology
23.  Molecular Differences and Similarities Between Alzheimer’s Disease and the 5XFAD Transgenic Mouse Model of Amyloidosis 
Biochemistry Insights  2013;6:1-10.
Transgenic (Tg) mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have been extensively used to study the pathophysiology of this dementia and to test the efficacy of drugs to treat AD. The 5XFAD Tg mouse, which contains two presenilin-1 and three amyloid precursor protein (APP) mutations, was designed to rapidly recapitulate a portion of the pathologic alterations present in human AD. APP and its proteolytic peptides, as well as apolipoprotein E and endogenous mouse tau, were investigated in the 5XFAD mice at 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months. AD and nondemented subjects were used as a frame of reference. APP, amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides, APP C-terminal fragments (CT99, CT83, AICD), β-site APP-cleaving enzyme, and APLP1 substantially increased with age in the brains of 5XFAD mice. Endogenous mouse tau did not show age-related differences. The rapid synthesis of Aβ and its impact on neuronal loss and neuroinflammation make the 5XFAD mice a desirable paradigm to model AD.
PMCID: PMC4154482  PMID: 25210460
Alzheimer’s disease; transgenic mice; presenilin; amyloid precursor protein; BACE1; AICD; tau
24.  Parkinson’s disease is not associated with gastrointestinal myenteric ganglion neuron loss 
Acta neuropathologica  2012;124(5):665-680.
Gastrointestinal dysfunction is a prominent non-motor feature of Parkinson’s disease (PD) that contributes directly to the morbidity of patients, complicates management of motor symptoms, and may herald incipient PD in patients without motor disability. Although PD has traditionally been considered a disease of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, analyses of gastrointestinal samples from PD patients have consistently revealed pathology in the enteric nervous system (ENS). The relationship of PD pathology to GI dysmotility is poorly understood, and this lack of understanding has led to limited success in developing treatments for PD-related GI symptoms. We have quantitatively compared myenteric neuron density and relative abundance of NO, VIP, and catecholamine neurons between patients with PD and control individuals along the length of the GI tract. In addition, we have examined the frequency of GI α-synuclein neuritic pathology and its co-localization with the same neuronal markers. We have included a comparison with a small population of patients with incidental Lewy bodies (ILB) found at autopsy. These data indicate there is no neuronal loss in the myenteric plexus in PD. Lewy body pathology parallels parasympathetic autonomic input from the DMV, not the distribution of extrinsic sympathetic input or intrinsic enteric neurons, and is only rarely co-localized with tyrosine hydroxylase. These data provide a critical background to which further analyses of the effect of PD on the GI tract may be compared and suggest that neuropathology in myenteric neurons is unlikely to be a causative factor in PD-related GI dysmotility.
PMCID: PMC3473167  PMID: 22941241
enteric; gastrointestinal; nitric oxide; vasoactive intestinal peptide; catecholamine; acetylcholine; constipation; gastroparesis; Lewy body; synuclein
25.  SMG1 Identified as a Regulator of Parkinson’s Disease-Associated alpha-Synuclein through siRNA Screening 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77711.
Synucleinopathies are a broad class of neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the presence of intracellular protein aggregates containing α-synuclein protein. The aggregated α-synuclein protein is hyperphosphorylated on serine 129 (S129) compared to the unaggregated form of the protein. While the precise functional consequences of S129 hyperphosphorylation are still being clarified, numerous in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that S129 phosphorylation is an early event in α-synuclein dysfunction and aggregation. Identifying the kinases and phosphatases that regulate this critical phosphorylation event may ultimately prove beneficial by allowing pharmacological mitigation of synuclein dysfunction and toxicity in Parkinson’s disease and other synucleinopathies. We report here the development of a high-content, fluorescence-based assay to quantitate levels of total and S129 phosphorylated α-synuclein protein. We have applied this assay to conduct high-throughput loss-of-function screens with siRNA libraries targeting 711 known and predicted human kinases and 206 phosphatases. Specifically, knockdown of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase related kinase SMG1 resulted in significant increases in the expression of pS129 phosphorylated α-synuclein (p-syn). Moreover, SMG1 protein levels were significantly reduced in brain regions with high p-syn levels in both dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD). These findings suggest that SMG1 may play an important role in increased α-synuclein pathology during the course of PDD, DLB, and possibly other synucleinopathies.
PMCID: PMC3813773  PMID: 24204929

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