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Neuron. 1995 Mar;14(3):671-80.

Gene expression and cellular content of cathepsin D in Alzheimer's disease brain: evidence for early up-regulation of the endosomal-lysosomal system.

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McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, Massachusetts 02178.


In Alzheimer's disease brains, more than 90% of pyramidal neurons in lamina V and 70% in lamina III displayed 2- to 5-fold elevated levels of cathepsin D (Cat D) mRNA by in situ hybridization compared with neurologically normal controls. Most of these cells appeared histologically normal. The less vulnerable nonpyramidal neuron population in lamina IV had relatively normal message levels. Neuronal populations expressing more Cat D mRNA also displayed quantitatively increased Cat D immunoreactive protein. Cat D mRNA expression was only moderately increased in astrocytes. Degenerating neurons exhibited intense immunoreactivity but lowered Cat D mRNA levels. The upregulation of Cat D synthesis and accumulation of hydrolase-laden lysosomes indicate an early activation of the endosomal-lysosomal system in vulnerable neuronal populations, possibly reflecting early regenerative or repair processes. These abnormalities also represent a basis for altered regulation of amyloid precursor protein processing.

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