Flow cytometry analysis of synaptosomes from post-mortem human brain reveals changes specific to Lewy body and Alzheimer's disease

Lab Invest. 2014 Oct;94(10):1161-72. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2014.103. Epub 2014 Jul 28.


Synaptic dysfunction is thought to have an important role in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Lewy body disease (LBD). To improve our understanding of synaptic alterations in health and disease, we investigated synaptosomes prepared from post-mortem human cerebral cortex, putamen (PT), and two regions of the caudate nucleus, dorso-lateral (DL) and ventro-medial (VM), regions commonly affected in AD and LBD. We observed that the fraction of synaptosomal particles with reactivity for dopamine transporter (DAT) was significantly reduced in the PT and VM caudate of patients with neuropathological diagnosis of LBD. As expected, these differences also were reflected in direct measurements of dopamine (DA) and its metabolite, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), in caudate and PT of LBD patients. The fraction of synaptosomal particles positive for amyloid β (Aβ) was significantly increased in frontal cortical samples of patients with the neuropathological diagnosis of severe AD, and was positively correlated with disease progression. We also prepared synaptosomes from the striatum of mice with severe loss of DA neurons (Slc6a3-DTR mice) and wild-type littermate controls. We observed markedly reduced levels of DAT-positive synaptosomes in Slc6a3-DTR mice following exposure to diphtheria toxin (DT). Striatal levels of DA and DOPAC in Slc6a3-DTR mice also were reduced significantly following DT exposure. We conclude that flow cytometric analysis of synaptosomes prepared from human or mouse brain provides an opportunity to study expression of pathology-associated proteins and also the specific loss of dopaminergic nerve terminals. Hence, we believe it is a valid method to detect pathological changes at the level of the synapse in LBD as well as AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / analysis
  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Catecholamines / analysis
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / analysis
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Lewy Body Disease / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Synaptosomes / chemistry*
  • Vesicular Glutamate Transport Protein 1 / analysis
  • alpha-Synuclein / analysis


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Catecholamines
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • SLC17A7 protein, human
  • Vesicular Glutamate Transport Protein 1
  • alpha-Synuclein