beta-amyloid deposition and neurofibrillary tangle formation in the olfactory bulb in ageing and Alzheimer's disease

Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 1999 Dec;25(6):481-91. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2990.1999.00208.x.


Impaired olfaction, hyposmia or anosmia are part of the clinical phenotype in neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease (AD). It has been proposed that the most severely affected areas are interconnected with the central olfactory system in contrast to the relative sparing of other sensory areas which lack olfactory connections. The pathology of the first synaptic relay in the olfactory pathway, the olfactory bulb (OB), has been studied in AD, but the results have been inconsistent. In order to define more fully the pathology of the OB, we analysed 15 AD and 15 control cases, using amyloid and tau immunohistochemistry on serial sections. This study demonstrates for the first time that all layers of the OB are severely affected in AD and in normal ageing. The principal effector cells of the OB, the mitral cells, developed neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) both in AD and in controls. All the cases, with the exception of two of the controls, contained NFTs. Amyloid immunoreactivity was detected in diffuse, primitive, classical and compact deposits in AD, while five control cases contained mainly diffuse deposits. We did not find a correlation between amyloid deposition and NFT formation. Among the control cases, two contained neither amyloid nor NFTs, eight had NFTs but no amyloid and only five had both NFTs and amyloid. All the AD cases had NFT and amyloid deposition. Our data suggest that the earlier pathology in the OB is NFT formation and more than ten NFTs/section is compatible with 93.3% diagnostic accuracy for AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Autopsy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / metabolism*
  • Olfactory Bulb / chemistry
  • Olfactory Bulb / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides