Failure of elimination of proteins from the brain is a major feature in many neurodegenerative diseases. Insoluble proteins accumulate in brain parenchyma and in walls of cerebral capillaries and arteries. Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) is a descriptive term for amyloid in vessel walls. Here, we adopt the term protein elimination failure angiopathy (PEFA) to focus on mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of a spectrum of disorders that exhibit both unique and common features of protein accumulation in blood vessel walls. We review (a) normal pathways and mechanisms by which proteins and other soluble metabolites are eliminated from the brain along 100- to 150-nm-thick basement membranes in walls of cerebral capillaries and arteries that serve as routes for lymphatic drainage of the brain; (b) a spectrum of proteins involved in PEFA; and (c) changes that occur in artery walls and contribute to failure of protein elimination. We use accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ), prion protein and granular osmiophilic material (GOM) in cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) as examples of different factors involved in the aetiology and pathogenesis of PEFA. Finally, we discuss how knowledge of factors involved in PEFA may help to focus on new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. When Aβ (following immunotherapy) and prion protein are released from brain parenchyma they deposit in walls of cerebral capillaries and arteries; GOM in CADASIL accumulates primarily in artery walls. Therefore, the focus of therapy for protein clearance in neurodegenerative disease should perhaps be on facilitating perivascular elimination of proteins and reducing PEFA.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; CADASIL; cerebral amyloid angiopathy; prions; protein elimination failure angiopathy (PEFA); therapy.
© 2013 British Neuropathological Society.