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Am J Pathol. 1990 Nov;137(5):1253-70.

Early accumulation of heparan sulfate in neurons and in the beta-amyloid protein-containing lesions of Alzheimer's disease and Down's syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


A monoclonal antibody (HK-249) that recognizes a glucosamine sulfate alpha 1----4 glucuronic acid-containing determinant in heparan sulfate (HS) chains of a basement membrane-derived heparan sulfate proteoglycan identified and immunolocalized HS specifically to the amyloid deposits in neuritic plaques (NPs), congophilic angiopathy (CA), as well as in neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and non-tangle-bearing neurons in the brains of Alzheimer's and Down's syndrome (DS) patients. Ultrastructural immunohistochemistry demonstrated that HS within neurons of Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain was localized to lipofuscin granules, an aging pigment previously shown also to contain beta-amyloid protein (BAP). Heparan sulfate also was localized to neurite-containing, nonfibrillar 'primitive' plaques that also demonstrated positive BAP immunoreactivity in both AD and DS brains. Antibodies to laminin, fibronectin, and a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan failed to show positive immunostaining of the HS-containing sites described above. Analysis of DS patients at different ages revealed that HS accumulated within neurons of the hippocampus and amygdala as early as 1 day after birth. Young age-matched controls did not demonstrate similar positive HS immunoreactivity in neurons, whereas positive immunostaining for HS was observed in other regions thought to normally contain HS. The earliest deposition of BAP was first observed as 'amorphous' or 'diffuse' cortical deposits in DS brain in patients aged 18 and 24 years before the accumulation of fibrillar amyloid (observed in DS patients who are 35 years and older). These cortical deposits also contained positive HS immunoreactivity, implying that HS accumulation in conjunction with the BAP is an early event that ultimately may contribute to the early age-related accumulation (ie, as early as 35 years of age in DS) of NPs, NFTs, and/or CA. Furthermore the colocalization of HS and BAP in a number of specific locales in AD and DS brain indicates a possible interaction between these two macromolecules that may be important in lesion development in these two diseases.

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