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Neurology. 2019 Apr 2;92(14):e1580-e1588. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007247. Epub 2019 Mar 6.

Cortical cholinergic denervation in primary progressive aphasia with Alzheimer pathology.

Author information

1
From the Mesulam Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.
2
From the Mesulam Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. c-geula@northwestern.edu.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To investigate the status of the basal forebrain cholinergic system in primary progressive aphasia (PPA) as justification for cholinergic therapy.

METHODS:

A cohort of 36 brains from PPA participants with the neuropathology of Alzheimer disease (PPA-AD, n = 14) or frontotemporal lobar degeneration (PPA-tau, n = 12; PPA-TDP, n = 10) were used for semiquantitative rating of degeneration and gliosis of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN). A subpopulation of 5 PPA-AD and 7 control brains underwent detailed analysis of BFCN pathology and cortical cholinergic axonal loss employing immunohistochemical and histochemical methods and stereologic analysis.

RESULTS:

Semiquantitatively, 11 (∼80%) PPA-AD participants were rated as having moderate/severe BFCN loss and gliosis, whereas none of the PPA-tau and only 1 (10%) PPA-TDP participant received such a rating. Detailed analysis in the subpopulation of PPA-AD participants revealed substantial tangle formation, loss of BFCN, and degeneration of cortical cholinergic axons. Compared to controls, loss of p75 low affinity neurotrophin receptor-positive BFCN was detected in the PPA-AD participants (p < 0.01). Acetylcholinesterase-positive cholinergic axons in all cortical areas studied displayed loss in PPA-AD (p < 0.005-0.0001). The loss was more severe in the language-dominant left hemisphere and, within the left hemisphere, in language-affiliated cortical areas.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our results demonstrate prominent depletion of BFCN and cortical cholinergic axons in PPA-AD when compared with normal control or other neuropathologic variants of PPA. The demonstration of cholinergic denervation with an anatomy that fits the clinical picture suggests that cholinergic treatment is justified in patients with PPA who have positive AD biomarkers.

PMID:
30842294
PMCID:
PMC6448447
[Available on 2020-04-02]
DOI:
10.1212/WNL.0000000000007247

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