Early Abeta accumulation and progressive synaptic loss, gliosis, and tangle formation in AD brain

Neurology. 2004 Mar 23;62(6):925-31. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000115115.98960.37.


Background: Pathologic changes in the Alzheimer disease (AD) brain occur in a hierarchical neuroanatomical pattern affecting cortical, subcortical, and limbic regions.

Objective: To define the time course of pathologic and biochemical changes-amyloid deposition, amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta) accumulation, neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) formation, synaptic loss, and gliosis-within the temporal association cortex of AD cases of varying disease duration, relative to control brains.

Methods: Stereologic assessments of amyloid burden and tangle density as well as ELISA-based measurements of Abeta, synaptophysin, and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were performed in the superior temporal sulcus from a cohort of 83 AD and 26 nondemented control brains.

Results: Relative to control cases, AD brains were characterized by accumulation of NFT and amyloid plaques, increase of tris- and formic acid-extractable Abeta species, reduced levels of synaptophysin, and elevated levels of GFAP. In AD cases, the duration of dementia correlated with the degree of tangle formation, gliosis, and synaptic loss but not with any Abeta measures. Accumulation of Abeta, measured both neuropathologically and biochemically, was markedly increased in AD brains independent of disease duration, even in cases of short duration.

Conclusions: These data support distinct processes in the initiation and progression of AD pathology within the temporal cortex: Deposition of Abeta reaches a "ceiling" early in the disease process, whereas NFT formation, synaptic loss, and gliosis continue throughout the course of the illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Gliosis / metabolism
  • Gliosis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology*
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Synapses / pathology*
  • Synaptophysin / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Biomarkers
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Synaptophysin
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-40)
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)