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Brain Struct Funct. 2007 Sep;212(2):195-207. Epub 2007 Aug 17.

Mitochondrial degeneration in dystrophic neurites of senile plaques may lead to extracellular deposition of fine filaments.

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Department of Health Sciences, Boston University, 635 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Recent data show that amyloid precursor protein accumulates inside axons after disruption of fast axonal transport, but how this leads to mature plaques with extracellular amyloid remains unclear. To investigate this issue, primitive plaques in prefrontal cortex of aged rhesus monkeys were reconstructed using serial section electron microscopy. The swollen profiles of dystrophic neurites were found to be diverticula from the main axis of otherwise normal neurites. Microtubules extended from the main neurite axis into the diverticulum to form circular loops or coils, providing a transport pathway for trapping organelles. The quantity and morphology of organelles contained within diverticula suggested a progression of degeneration. Primitive diverticula contained microtubules and normal mitochondria, while larger, presumably older, diverticula contained large numbers of degenerating mitochondria. In advanced stages of degeneration, apparent autophagosomes derived from mitochondria exhibited a loose lamellar to filamentous internal structure. Similar filamentous material and remnants of mitochondria were visible in the extracellular spaces of plaques. This progression of degeneration suggests that extracellular filaments originate inside degenerating mitochondria of neuritic diverticula, which may be a common process in diverse diseases.

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