Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most frequent type of dementia, is a prototypical neurodegenerative disease, but shares with stroke certain common risk factors. Consequently, how vascular pathology may modulate AD pathogenesis has gained scientific attention. Therefore, aside from typical features of AD (e.g., amyloid-β, tau hyperphosphorylation, and cholinergic dysfunction), changes within the 'neurovascular unit' (NVU) are of particular interest. This study focused on cholinergic, choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-immunopositive, and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-containing neurons in association with the vasculature to explore the neurovascular complex of the AD brain affected by stroke. Wild-type and triple-transgenic (3xTg) mice of different ages underwent unilateral permanent focal cerebral ischemia. Histochemical analyses comprised diverse neuronal and vascular NVU components, and markers of AD. Immunofluorescence labeling confirmed the existence of Aβ deposits and phospho-tau together with glial reactions and morphologically altered endothelia, visualized by Solanum tuberosum lectin. Twenty-four hours after ischemia induction, immunoreactivities for ChAT and TH declined in the ischemia-affected striatum and, at least in part, in the ischemic border zone and ipsilateral neocortex. Correlation analyses indicated simultaneous degeneration of neuronal and vascular components. A trend for more severe affection of ChAT was observed in younger as compared with older mice. The present findings suggest complex interactions within the NVU of the AD-like brain affected by ischemia, comprising alterations of the cholinergic system in conjunction with vascular pathology. Hence, it may be worthwhile to explore the impact of a cellular stabilization approach on vascular and glial elements in AD in terms of a potential disease-alleviating strategy.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; cerebral ischemia; choline acetyltransferase; neurovascular unit; stroke; tyrosine hydroxylase.