Neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) represent one of the main neuropathological features in the cerebral cortex associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). This neurofibrillary lesion involves the accumulation of abnormally hyperphosphorylated or abnormally phosphorylated microtubule-associated protein tau into paired helical filaments (PHF-tau) within neurons. We have used immunocytochemical techniques and confocal microscopy reconstructions to examine the distribution of PHF-tau-immunoreactive (ir) cells, and their perisomatic GABAergic and glutamatergic innervations in the hippocampal formation and adjacent cortex of AD patients. Furthermore, correlative light and electron microscopy was employed to examine these neurons and the perisomatic synapses. We observed two patterns of staining in PHF-tau-ir neurons, pattern I (without NFT) and pattern II (with NFT), the distribution of which varies according to the cortical layer and area. Furthermore, the distribution of both GABAergic and glutamatergic terminals around the soma and proximal processes of PHF-tau-ir neurons does not seem to be altered as it is indistinguishable from both control cases and from adjacent neurons that did not contain PHF-tau. At the electron microscope level, a normal looking neuropil with typical symmetric and asymmetric synapses was observed around PHF-tau-ir neurons. These observations suggest that the synaptic connectivity around the perisomatic region of these PHF-tau-ir neurons was apparently unaltered.
Keywords: GABAergic axons; basket terminals; chandelier terminals; glutamatergic axons; neurofibrillary tangles.