The unfolded protein response is activated in Alzheimer's disease

Acta Neuropathol. 2005 Aug;110(2):165-72. doi: 10.1007/s00401-005-1038-0. Epub 2005 Jun 23.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is, at the neuropathological level, characterized by the accumulation and aggregation of misfolded proteins. The presence of misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) triggers a cellular stress response called the unfolded protein response (UPR) that may protect the cell against the toxic buildup of misfolded proteins. In this study we investigated the activation of the UPR in AD. Protein levels of BiP/GRP78, a molecular chaperone which is up-regulated during the UPR, was found to be increased in AD temporal cortex and hippocampus as determined by Western blot analysis. At the immunohistochemical level intensified staining of BiP/GRP78 was observed in AD, which did not co-localize with AT8-positive neurofibrillary tangles. In addition, we performed immunohistochemistry for phosphorylated (activated) pancreatic ER kinase (p-PERK), an ER kinase which is activated during the UPR. p-PERK was observed in neurons in AD patients, but not in non-demented control cases and did not co-localize with AT8-positive tangles. Overall, these data show that the UPR is activated in AD, and the increased occurrence of BiP/GRP78 and p-PERK in cytologically normal-appearing neurons suggest a role for the UPR early in AD neurodegeneration. Although the initial participation of the UPR in AD pathogenesis might be neuroprotective, sustained activation of the UPR in AD might initiate or mediate neurodegeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Female
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Chaperones / biosynthesis*
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / metabolism
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Protein Folding*
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism


  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • HSPA5 protein, human
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • PERK kinase
  • eIF-2 Kinase