Brain lesions comprised of aluminum-rich cells that lack microtubules may be associated with the cognitive deficit of Alzheimer's disease

Neurotoxicology. 2009 Nov;30(6):1059-69. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2009.06.010. Epub 2009 Jul 8.


A recent longitudinal study described an inducible rodent model for age-related cognitive deterioration. This model was produced by chronically feeding rats aluminum, from age 12 months onwards, in measured amounts equivalent to total aluminum levels ingested by Americans from their food, beverages and aluminum additives. The rats performed a hippocampal-dependent spatial memory discrimination task weekly throughout middle age and old age. One-third of the rats attained significantly lower mean performance scores in old age than middle age, in an aluminum dose-dependent manner, and exhibited behavioral signs observed in dementia. The present study used histological and immunohistochemical techniques to identify neuropathological difference between brains of rats that showed cognitive deterioration and the cognitively intact controls. Most aged rat brains had large numbers of aluminum-loaded pyramidal cells in their entorhinal cortex and temporal association cortex but the cognitively deteriorated rats had threefold more such cells than controls (p<0.01). A distinguishing feature was that all brains of the cognitively deteriorated rats, and none of controls, had at least one substantial hippocampal lesion that consisted of aluminum-rich microtubule-depleted pyramidal cells with shriveled processes, and loss of synapse density. Corticolimbic sections from brains of humans with Alzheimer's disease also showed neuropathology consistent with this type of damage. The evidence suggests bioavailable aluminum gradually accumulates in cortical and limbic regions of susceptible subjects' brains, eventually producing hippocampal lesions consisting of dysfunctional aluminum-rich microtubule-depleted pyramidal cells with damaged neurites and synapse loss. These lesions expand over time, disrupting afferent and efferent hippocampal circuitry with the development of clinically overt dementia.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aluminum / metabolism*
  • Aluminum Chloride
  • Aluminum Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Chlorides / administration & dosage
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Eosine I Bluish
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubules / pathology*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurofilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism*
  • Pyramidal Cells / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synaptogyrins
  • Tubulin / metabolism


  • Aluminum Compounds
  • Chlorides
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • Synaptogyrins
  • Tubulin
  • neurofilament protein H
  • Aluminum Chloride
  • Aluminum
  • Eosine I Bluish