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Cytometry A. 2012 Mar;81(3):248-54. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.22009. Epub 2011 Dec 28.

Isolation of synaptic terminals from Alzheimer's disease cortex.

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UCLA School of Nursing, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Amyloid beta (Aβ) oligomers and phosphorylated tau (p-tau) aggregates are increasingly identified as potential toxic intermediates in Alzheimer's disease (AD). In cortical AD synapses, p-tau co-localizes with Aβ, but the Aβ and p-tau peptide species responsible for synaptic dysfunction and demise remains unclear. The present experiments were designed to use high-speed cell sorting techniques to purify synaptosome population based on size, and then extend the method to physically isolate Aβ-positive synaptosomes with the goal of understanding the nature of Aβ and tau pathology in AD synapses. To examine the purity of size-gated synaptosomes, samples were first gated on size; particles with sizes between 0.5 and 1.5 microns were collected. Electron microscopy documented a homogenous population of spherical particles with internal vesicles and synaptic densities. Next, size-gated synaptosomes positive for Aβ were collected by fluorescence activated sorting and then analyzed by immunoblotting techniques. Sorted Aβ-positive synaptosomes were enriched for amyloid precursor protein (APP) and for Aβ oligomers and aggregates; immunolabeling for p-tau showed a striking accumulation of p-tau aggregates compared to the original homogenate and purified synaptosomes. These results confirm co-localization of Aβ and p-tau within individual synaptic terminals and provide proof of concept for the utility of flow sorting synaptosomes.

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