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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2006 Apr;65(4):348-57.

Endoplasmic reticulum stress features are prominent in Alzheimer disease but not in prion diseases in vivo.

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  • 1Institute of Neurology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.

Abstract

Prion diseases and Alzheimer disease (AD) share a variety of clinical and neuropathologic features (e.g. progressive dementia, accumulation of abnormally folded proteins in diseased tissue, and pronounced neuronal loss) as well as pathogenic mechanisms like generation of oxidative stress molecules and complement activation. Recently, it was suggested that neuronal death in AD may have its origin in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Cellular stress conditions can interfere with protein folding and subsequently cause accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the ER lumen. The ER responds to this by the activation of adaptive pathways, which are termed unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR transducer PERK, which launches the most immediate response to ER stress (i.e. the transient attenuation of mRNA translation), and the downstream effector of PERK, eIF2alpha, were shown to be activated in AD. We demonstrate that neither in sporadic nor in infectiously acquired or inherited human prion diseases can the activated forms of PERK and eIF2alpha be detected, except when concomitant neurofibrillary pathology is present; whereas the distribution of phosphorylated PERK correlates with abnormally phosphorylated tau in AD. In brains of scrapie-affected mice and mice infected with sporadic or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, activated PERK is only very faintly expressed. The lack of prominent activation of the PERK-eIF2alpha pathway in prion diseases suggests that, in contrast to AD, ER stress does not play a crucial role in neuronal death in prion disorders.

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