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J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 6;277(36):33012-7. Epub 2002 Jun 14.

Passive immunization against beta-amyloid peptide protects central nervous system (CNS) neurons from increased vulnerability associated with an Alzheimer's disease-causing mutation.

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  • 1Division of Psychiatry Research, University of Zurich, August Forel Strasse 1, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland.


To characterize the effects of the familial Alzheimer's disease-causing Swedish mutations of amyloid precursor protein (SwAPP) on the vulnerability of central nervous system neurons, we induced epileptic seizures in transgenic mice expressing SwAPP. The transgene expression did not change the seizure threshold, but consistently more neurons degenerated in brains of SwAPP mice as compared with wild-type littermates. The degenerating neurons were stained both by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling and by Gallyas silver impregnation. A susceptible population of neurons accumulated intracellular Abeta and immunoreacted with antibodies against activated caspase-3. To demonstrate that increased Abeta levels mediated the increased vulnerability, we infused antibodies against Abeta and found a significant reduction in neuronal loss that was paralleled by decreased brain levels of Abeta. Because the SwAPP mice exhibited no amyloid plaques at the age of these experiments, transgenic overproduction of Abeta in brain rendered neurons susceptible to damage much earlier than the onset of amyloid plaque formation. Our data underscore the possibility that Abeta is toxic, that it increases the vulnerability of neurons to excitotoxic events produced by seizures, and that lowering Abeta by passive immunization can protect neurons from Abeta-related toxicity.

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