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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2000 Apr;59(4):314-22.

Decreased vasopressin gene expression in the biological clock of Alzheimer disease patients with and without depression.

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The Netherlands Institute for Brain Research, Amsterdam.


Circadian rhythm disturbances are frequently present in Alzheimer disease (AD). In the present study, we investigated the expression of vasopressin (AVP) mRNA in the human suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The in situ hybridization procedure on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded material was improved to such a degree that we could, for the first time, visualize AVP mRNA expressing neurons in the human SCN and carry out quantitative measurements. The total amount of AVP mRNA expressed as masked silver grains in the SCN was 3 times lower in AD patients (n = 14; 2,135 +/- 597 microm2) than in age- and time-of-death-matched controls (n = 11; 6,667 +/- 1466 microm2) (p = 0.003). No significant difference was found in the amount of AVP mRNA between AD patients with depression (n = 7) and without depression (n = 7) (2,985 +/-1103 microm2 and 1,285 +/- 298 microm2, respectively; p = 0.38). In addition, the human SCN AVP mRNA expressing neurons showed a marked day-night difference in controls under 80 years of age. The amount of AVP mRNA was more than 3 times higher during the daytime (9,028 +/- 1709 microm2, n = 7) than at night (2,536 +/- 740 microm2, n = 4; p = 0.02), whereas no clear diurnal rhythm of AVP mRNA in the SCN was observed in AD patients. There was no relationship between the amount of AVP mRNA in the SCN and age at onset of dementia, duration of AD and the neuropathological changes in the cerebral cortex. These findings suggest that the neurobiological basis of the circadian rhythm disturbances that are responsible for behavioral rhythm disorders is located in the SCN. It also explains the beneficial effects of light therapy on nightly restlessness in AD patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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