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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 15, 1992; 89(2): 569–573.
PMCID: PMC48280

Cortical neurons express nerve growth factor receptors in advanced age and Alzheimer disease.

Abstract

Using a monoclonal antibody directed against the primate nerve growth factor (NGF) receptor, we examined the expression of NGF receptors within neuronal perikarya of normal adult human cerebral cortex (27-98 years old) and individuals with Alzheimer disease (AD). This expression of cortical NGF receptors was compared with that seen in other neurological diseases and normal human development as well as in young and aged nonhuman primates. NGF receptor-containing cortical neurons were not observed in young adults (less than 50 years old) and were observed only infrequently in non-demented elderly individuals (50-80 years old). In contrast, numerous NGF receptor-containing cortical neurons were seen in AD patients of all ages and in one 98-year-old nondemented patient. In advanced age and AD, numerous NGF receptor-positive neurons were located within laminae II-VI of temporal association cortices whereas only a few were seen in the subicular complex, entorhinal cortex, parahippocampal gyrus, and amygdaloid complex. These perikarya appeared healthy, with bipolar, fusiform, or multipolar morphologies and extended varicose dendritic arbors. These neurons failed to express neurofibrillary tangle-bearing material. In contrast to AD, NGF receptor-containing cortical neurons were not observed in Parkinson disease, Pick disease, or Shy-Drager syndrome. The NGF receptor-containing cortical neurons seen in advanced age and AD were similar in morphology to those observed in human fetal cortex. No NGF receptor-containing cortical neurons were observed in young or aged nonhuman primates. These findings suggest that neurons within the human cerebral cortex exhibit plasticity in their expression of NGF receptors in AD and extreme advanced aging.

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