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Exp Neurol. 2000 May;163(1):9-19.

DNA damage and activated caspase-3 expression in neurons and astrocytes: evidence for apoptosis in frontotemporal dementia.

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Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California 92697, USA.


Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a neurodegenerative disease which affects mainly the frontal and anterior temporal cortex. It is associated with neuronal loss, gliosis, and microvacuolation of lamina I to III in these brain regions. In previous studies we have described neurons with DNA damage in the absence of tangle formation and suggested this may result in tangle-independent mechanisms of neurodegeneration in the AD brain. In the present study, we sought to examine DNA fragmentation and activated caspase-3 expression in FTD brain where tangle formation is largely absent. The results demonstrate that numerous nuclei were TdT positive in all FTD brains examined. Activated caspase-3 immunoreactivity was detected in both neurons and astrocytes and was elevated in FTD cases as compared to control cases. A subset of activated caspase-3-positive cells were also TdT positive. In addition, the cell bodies of a subset of astrocytes showed enlarged, irregular shapes, and vacuolation and their processes appeared fragmented. These degenerating astrocytes were positive for activated caspase-3 and colocalized with robust TdT-labeled nuclei. These findings suggest that a subset of astrocytes exhibit degeneration and that DNA damage and activated caspase-3 may contribute to neuronal cell death and astrocyte degeneration in the FTD brain. Our results suggest that apoptosis may be a mechanism of neuronal cell death in FTD as well as in AD (228).

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