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Exp Neurol. 1995 Jun;133(2):225-30.

Evidence for apoptotic cell death in Alzheimer's disease.

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National Institute on Aging, Gerontology Research Center, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA.


We provide evidence for apoptosis in Alzheimer's disease using the in situ labeling technique TUNEL (terminal transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling). The technique specifically detects apoptotic cells by utilizing terminal transferase to incorporate biotinylated nucleotides into the fragmented DNA of apoptotic cells. The labeled cells are visualized by reaction with avidin peroxidase and a suitable substrate. Sections from the hippocampus of Alzheimer-diseased (AD) brains and non-AD brains were examined for apoptosis. While considerable variation in the quantity of apoptotic cells was observed among individual samples, the incidence of apoptosis in AD brains was elevated in comparison to age-matched, non-AD brains in specific regions of the hippocampal formation. Immunostaining indicated that both neurons and astrocytes were undergoing apoptosis, although the majority of the TUNEL-positive cells appeared to be glial, based on the location of the stained cells. These data suggest that apoptosis may be involved in both the primary neuronal cell loss and in the glial response that is a component of AD.

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