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Neurobiol Aging. 2004 Jul;25(6):697-711.

Spatial and temporal relationships between plaques and tangles in Alzheimer-pathology.

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Department of Clinical Cell and Neurobiology, Institute of Anatomy, Charité, 10098 Berlin, Germany.


One histological hallmark in Alzheimer's disease is the tangle. The other is the plaque. A widely discussed hypothesis is the "amyloid cascade" assuming that tangle formation is a direct consequence of amyloid plaque formation. The aim of this study was to examine plaques and tangles in a highly defined neuronal circuitry in order to determine their detailed spatial and temporal relationships. We investigated serial sections of the whole hippocampal formation of brains with early Braak-stages (0-III) for tangles only, i.e. one case at stage 0, six at stage I, six at stage II, and nine at stage III. Most cases displayed both plaques and tangles. Four cases of stages 0 and I, three cases with stage II, and even one with stage III, however, did not display plaques. In turn, no plaque was found in the absence of tangles. The spatial relationship indicates that plaques lay in the terminal fields of tangle-bearing neurons. Our analysis suggests that tangles either antecede plaques or--less likely--are independently formed.

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