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Early Hum Dev. 1989 Feb;18(4):237-46.

Neuronal maturation in the foetal brain in Down's syndrome.

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Medical Research Council-Developmental Neurobiology Unit, London, U.K.


Biochemical indices of neuronal maturation have been examined in postmortem cerebral cortex tissue from Down's syndrome (DS) and control foetuses matched for age. No differences were found in the concentration of neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM), or in the proportion of the 'adult' form of N-CAM, in the total concentration or composition of gangliosides, or in the activity of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). The concentration of major lipid classes was also examined, and the DS specimens differed only in having a small but significantly higher proportion of phosphatidylcholine. The findings suggest that, by the indices examined, there is no delay in neuronal maturation, nor a major abnormality in lipid composition although anomalies in the polyunsaturated fatty acid composition of phosphoglycerides do exist at this stage of brain development in DS (J. Neurochem., 44 (1985) 869-874). Furthermore, the normal activity of ChAT found in the DS foetal cerebral cortex suggests that the impaired cortical cholinergic innervation which is apparent later in life may not be due to initial defects in cholinergic differentiation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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