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Am J Pathol. 1995 Apr;146(4):848-60.

The lysosomal cysteine protease, cathepsin S, is increased in Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome brain. An immunocytochemical study.

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Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Expression of cathepsin (cat) S, a lysosomal cysteine protease, has recently been shown to cause an increase in production of amyloid beta-peptides in transfected human cells. In this study, we examined the presence and localization of cat S by immunocytochemistry in 21 control, 24 Alzheimer's disease (AD), and 10 Down syndrome (DS) postmortem brains. An antiserum to a human cat S fusion protein was affinity purified and its specificity confirmed by abolition of immunoreactivity after adsorption with cat S but not cat L fusion protein. A small minority of control cases showed light, focal staining of scattered cortical neurons. Many control cases, as well as most AD and DS cases, showed prominent staining of vascular smooth muscle cells, particularly in leptomeningeal vessels. Both AD and DS brain tissue showed increased immunoreactivity in a subset of neocortical and hippocampal neurons and glia. Cat S immunoreactivity occurred in a granular, cytoplasmic pattern in some neurons or in a more dense staining pattern in certain neurofibrillary tangle-bearing neurons. Cat S-positive neurons were also present in amygdala and basal forebrain in AD brains. A subset of astrocytes were immunoreactive with the cat S antibody in AD and DS but not in control brains. In rare AD cases, cat S immunostaining was observed in astrocytes in the periphery of amyloid-beta-containing plaques. These results suggest that cat S is up-regulated in AD and DS brain. The association of cat S immunoreactivity with tangle-bearing neurons, astrocytes, and rare senile plaques implies a role for altered cat S activity in the pathogenesis of AD.

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