Ante mortem cerebral amino acid concentrations indicate selective degeneration of glutamate-enriched neurons in Alzheimer's disease

Neuroscience. 1990;38(3):571-7. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(90)90051-5.


There is little information about major constituents of the brain in Alzheimer's disease. In the case of amino acids most of the previous data are contradictory. These have been interpreted in an anatomic and neurotransmitter as well as a metabolic context. To help clarify this, the contents of 14 amino acids and ethanolamine were determined in samples of neocortex from diagnostic craniotomies of 15 demented patients (10 with Alzheimer's disease) and other neurosurgical procedures (57 patients, 18 with intractable depression). A comprehensive survey of the effects of possible complicating factors on the concentrations of amino acids showed that artefacts were few; this was in contrast to a post mortem series of brains (16 with Alzheimer's disease and 16 controls; six regions assayed). We have used the ante mortem data to provide the basis for an accurate comparison of amino acid values between Alzheimer and control samples. In Alzheimer's disease, the mean contents of many amino acids were slightly higher (sum of the increases of those significantly affected was 15 nmol/mg protein) whereas glutamate content alone was significantly reduced (by 16 nmol/mg protein). This was not a feature of depression or a group of patients with other dementias. Glutamate content of Alzheimer samples was related to pyramidal neuron density in cortical layer III. These alterations were detected relatively early during the course of Alzheimer's disease and are considered to be due to loss of corticocortical glutamatergic association pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Glutamates / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Degeneration*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Postmortem Changes


  • Amino Acids
  • Glutamates
  • Glutamic Acid