A Histochemical Analysis of Neurofibrillary Tangles in Olfactory Epithelium, a Study Based on an Autopsy Case of Juvenile Alzheimer's Disease

Acta Histochem Cytochem. 2022 Jun 29;55(3):93-98. doi: 10.1267/ahc.22-00048. Epub 2022 Jun 25.


The pathological changes of Alzheimer's disease (AD) begin 10-20 years before clinical onset, and it is therefore desirable to identify effective methods for early diagnosis. The nasal mucosa is a target tissue for measuring AD-related biomarkers because the olfactory nerve is the only cranial nerve that is exposed to the external environment. We describe an autopsy case of rapidly advanced juvenile AD (JAD), focusing on the olfactory system. The formation of senile plaques, neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), and neuropil threads was examined in the temporal cortex, hippocampus, olfactory bulb, and olfactory and respiratory epithelia in the bilateral olfactory clefts. Neurodegenerative changes in the olfactory and respiratory epithelia and the pathological deposition of amyloid β42 (Aβ42) and phosphorylated tau were also examined. As a result, senile plaques, NFTs, and neuropil threads were found in the temporal cortex, hippocampus, and olfactory bulb. NFTs were also found in the olfactory epithelium. Degenerated olfactory cells and their axons stained positive for phosphorylated tau. Supporting cells in the degenerated olfactory epithelium stained positive for Aβ42. In conclusion, pathological biomarkers of AD were expressed in the degenerated olfactory epithelium of this JAD patient. This observation suggests that nasal samples may be useful for the diagnosis of AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid β42; olfactory bulb; olfactory epithelium; phosphorylated tau.