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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2006 Jan;65(1):19-25.

Thrombin and prothrombin are expressed by neurons and glial cells and accumulate in neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer disease brain.

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Department of Psychiatry, Kinsmen Laboratory of Neurological Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Thrombin is a serine protease that is generated by proteolytic cleavage of its precursor, prothrombin. We previously showed that thrombin proteolyses the microtubule-associated protein tau and that phosphorylation of tau inhibits this process. To characterize further the role of thrombin in the brain, we investigated prothrombin and thrombin expression in cultured brain cells and in brains of control, Alzheimer disease (AD) and parkinsonism-dementia complex of Guam (PDCG). We show by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction that prothrombin mRNA is expressed in brain tissues, neuroblastoma cells, and cultured human astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglial cells. We also show by immunohistochemistry that the proteins prothrombin and thrombin are present in brain using specific monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies for both proteins. All antibodies stained residual serum in blood vessels, as well as normal pyramidal neurons and their processes, and some astrocytes. Additionally, in AD and PDCG cases, all antibodies stained extra- and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), senile plaques, and reactive microglial cells. The ubiquitous expression of prothrombin and thrombin in brain cells suggests that thrombin plays an important physiological role in normal brain. The accumulation of thrombin and prothrombin in NFTs supports the hypothesis that thrombin may be involved in tau proteolysis and that failure to metabolize tau may lead to its aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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