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Neurobiol Aging. 1992 May-Jun;13(3):413-9.

Evidence for changes in the Alzheimer's disease brain cortical membrane structure mediated by cholesterol.

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Department of Radiology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington 06030.


Small angle X-ray diffraction analysis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) lipid membranes extracted from cortical gray matter showed significant, reproducible structure changes relative to age-matched control samples. Specifically, there was an average 4 A reduction in the lipid bilayer width and significant changes in the membrane electron density profiles of AD cortical samples. There were no significant structure differences in the membrane bilayers isolated from an unaffected region (cerebellum) of the AD brain. Lipid and protein analysis of 6 AD and 6 age-matched controls showed that the phospholipid:protein mass ratio was unchanged but that the unesterified cholesterol:phospholipid (C:PL) mole ratio decreased by 30% in the AD temporal gyrus relative to age-matched controls. By contrast, the C:PL mole ratio in the cerebellum did not change significantly. X-ray diffraction analysis of a cholesterol enriched AD sample demonstrated a virtual restoration of the normal membrane bilayer width and electron density profile, suggesting that the cholesterol deficit played a major role in the AD lipid membrane structure perturbation. Alterations in the composition and structure of the membrane bilayer may play an important role in the pathophysiology of AD by altering the activity and catabolism of membrane-bound proteins, including the beta-amyloid precursor protein.

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