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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. Jun 29, 1999; 354(1386): 1101–1118.
PMCID: PMC1692614

Filamentous nerve cell inclusions in neurodegenerative diseases: tauopathies and alpha-synucleinopathies.

Abstract

Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are the most common neurodegenerative diseases. They are characterized by the degeneration of selected populations of nerve cells that develop filamentous inclusions before degeneration. The neuronal inclusions of Alzheimer's disease are made of the microtubule-associated protein tau, in a hyperphosphorylated state. Recent work has shown that the filamentous inclusions of Parkinson's disease are made of the protein alpha-synuclein and that rare, familial forms of Parkinson's disease are caused by missense mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene. Besides Parkinson's disease, the filamentous inclusions of two additional neurodegenerative diseases, namely dementia with Lewy bodies and multiple system atrophy, have also been found to be made of alpha-synuclein. Abundant filamentous tau inclusions are not limited to Alzheimer's disease. They are the defining neuropathological characteristic of frontotemporal dementias such as Pick's disease, and of progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration. The recent discovery of mutations in the tau gene in familial forms of frontotemporal dementia has provided a direct link between tau dysfunction and dementing disease. The new work has established that tauopathies and alpha-synucleinopathies account for most late-onset neurodegenerative diseases in man. The formation of intracellular filamentous inclusions might be the gain of toxic function that leads to the demise of affected brain cells.

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Selected References

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