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J Chem Neuroanat. 2004 Jun;27(3):143-64.

Differential loss of striatal projection systems in Huntington's disease: a quantitative immunohistochemical study.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN 38163, USA.


Prior studies suggest differences exist among striatal projection neuron types in their vulnerability to Huntington's disease (HD). In the present study, we immunolabeled the fibers and terminals of the four main types of striatal projection neuron in their target areas for substance P, enkephalin, or glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), and used computer-assisted image analysis to quantify the abundance of immunolabeled terminals in a large sample of HD cases ranging from grade 0 to grade 4 [J. Neuropathol. Exp. Neurol. 44 (1985) 559], normalized to labeling in control human brains. Our goal was to characterize the relative rates of loss of the two striatopallidal projection systems (to the internal versus the external pallidal segments) and the two striatonigral projections systems (to pars compacta versus pars reticulata). The findings for GAD and the two neuropeptides were similar--the striatal projection to the external pallidal segment was the most vulnerable, showing substantial loss by grade 1. Loss of fibers in both subdivisions of the substantia nigra was also already great by grade 1. By contrast, the loss in the striatal projection system to the internal segment of globus pallidus proceeded more gradually. By grade 4 of HD, however, profound loss in all projection systems was apparent. These findings support the notion that the striatal neurons preferentially projecting to the internal pallidal segment are, in fact, less vulnerable in HD than are the other striatal projection neuron types.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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