The hypothalamus in Alzheimer's disease: a Golgi and electron microscope study

Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2015 Aug;30(5):478-87. doi: 10.1177/1533317514556876. Epub 2014 Nov 7.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by irreversible decline of mental faculties, emotional and behavioral changes, loss of motor skills, and dysfunction of autonomic nervous system and disruption of circadian rhythms (CRs). We attempted to describe the morphological findings of the hypothalamus in early cases of AD, focusing our study mostly on the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the supraoptic nucleus (SON), and the paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Samples were processed for electron microscopy and silver impregnation techniques. The hypothalamic nuclei demonstrated a substantial decrease in the neuronal population, which was particularly prominent in the SCN. Marked abbreviation of dendritic arborization, in association with spinal pathology, was also seen. The SON and PVN demonstrated a substantial number of dystrophic axons and abnormal spines. Alzheimer's pathology, such as deposits of amyloid-β peptide and neurofibrillary degeneration, was minimal. Electron microscopy revealed mitochondrial alterations in the cell body and the dendritic branches. The morphological alterations of the hypothalamic nuclei in early cases of AD may be related to the gradual alteration of CRs and the instability of autonomic regulation.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Golgi staining; electron microscopy; hypothalamus.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Golgi Apparatus / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / ultrastructure*
  • Silver Staining
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / ultrastructure*
  • Supraoptic Nucleus / ultrastructure*