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Acta Neuropathol. 2011 Sep;122(3):285-92. doi: 10.1007/s00401-011-0843-x. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Postsynaptic degeneration as revealed by PSD-95 reduction occurs after advanced Aβ and tau pathology in transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, 450 Clarkson Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA.


Impairment of synaptic plasticity underlies memory dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Molecules involved in this plasticity such as PSD-95, a major postsynaptic scaffold protein at excitatory synapses, may play an important role in AD pathogenesis. We examined the distribution of PSD-95 in transgenic mice of amyloidopathy (5XFAD) and tauopathy (JNPL3) as well as in AD brains using double-labeling immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy. In wild type control mice, PSD-95 primarily labeled neuropil with distinct distribution in hippocampal apical dendrites. In 3-month-old 5XFAD mice, PSD-95 distribution was similar to that of wild type mice despite significant Aβ deposition. However, in 6-month-old 5XFAD mice, PSD-95 immunoreactivity in apical dendrites markedly decreased and prominent immunoreactivity was noted in neuronal soma in CA1 neurons. Similarly, PSD-95 immunoreactivity disappeared from apical dendrites and accumulated in neuronal soma in 14-month-old, but not in 3-month-old, JNPL3 mice. In AD brains, PSD-95 accumulated in Hirano bodies in hippocampal neurons. Our findings support the notion that either Aβ or tau can induce reduction of PSD-95 in excitatory synapses in hippocampus. Furthermore, this PSD-95 reduction is not an early event but occurs as the pathologies advance. Thus, the time-dependent PSD-95 reduction from synapses and accumulation in neuronal soma in transgenic mice and Hirano bodies in AD may mark postsynaptic degeneration that underlies long-term functional deficits.

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