Disruption of astroglial interlaminar processes in Alzheimer's disease

Brain Res Bull. 2002 Jun;58(2):235-42. doi: 10.1016/s0361-9230(02)00785-2.


A palisade of long, interlaminar astroglial processes in supragranular layers of the cerebral cortex is characteristic of adult individuals of anthropoid species. In the present study, this distinctive cytoarchitectonic feature was analyzed in tissue deriving from the neocortex of cases affected by Alzheimer's disease (n=14) and age-matched control cases (n=10). Samples of different cortical areas, and in particular prefrontal, temporal and striate fields, were analyzed. Astroglia was labeled by glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactivity, that allowed a clear distinction between the classical, stellate intralaminar astroglia and the interlaminar glial processes. The occurrence and relative density of neuritic plaques were ascertained in the same specimens with Bielchowsky staining. In most cortical regions of cases diagnosed as severe Alzheimer's disease by the donor institutions, interlaminar astroglia was found to be markedly altered or absent, and replaced by hypertrophic intralaminar astrocytes. Cases diagnosed as milder or uncertain Alzheimer's disease showed a less consistent involvement of the interlaminar glial palisade. Alterations of the interlaminar palisade in the cortex affected by Alzheimer's disease did not strictly correlate with the density of neuritic plaques in the examined specimens. The findings indicate that loss/severe disruption of the interlaminar palisade of astroglial processes is part of the array of neuropathological changes occurring in the cerebral cortex during Alzheimer's disease. In addition, our data indicate that different types of neocortical astrocytes (namely intralaminar and interlaminar astrocytes) respond differently to the pathobiology of Alzheimer's disease in the neocortex, inasmuch as interlaminar processes tend to disappear while intralaminar processes become reactive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Astrocytes / pathology*
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Female
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Neocortex / metabolism
  • Neocortex / pathology*
  • Neocortex / physiopathology
  • Plaque, Amyloid / metabolism
  • Plaque, Amyloid / pathology
  • Silver Staining
  • Vimentin / metabolism


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Vimentin