Markers of axonal injury in post mortem human brain

Acta Neuropathol. 1994;88(5):433-9. doi: 10.1007/BF00389495.


beta-Amyloid precursor protein (beta APP) can be detected immunocytochemically at sites of axonal injury in the brain, and has recently been found to be a useful marker for injured axons in patients who survived for only 3 h after head trauma. It is transported by fast axonal transport and is thought to accumulate in detectable levels where the cytoskeleton breaks down. If this theory is correct, other substances should accumulate here in the same way, so we have used antibodies to other neuronal proteins to compare their efficacy as markers of axonal injury. SNAP-25, chromogranin A and cathepsin D also marked injured axons at all survival times studied (2.5 h-2 weeks), although they were not as sensitive or specific as beta APP. Immunolabelling for the 68-kDa neurofilament subunit (NF68) was present in most uninjured axons, and allowed axonal swellings to be seen in some cases. Synaptophysin, GAP-43, ubiquitin or tau did not label any normal or injured axons in this study. We, therefore, suggest that beta APP should be the immunocytochemical marker of choice for the detection of injured axons. This study also showed that microwave antigen retrieval significantly enhances the immunoreactivity of SNAP-25, chromogranin A, synaptophysin, GAP-43, ubiquitin and tau, in addition to that of beta APP, in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue, and reveals NF68 antigenicity where it was not previously detectable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyloid / analysis
  • Axons / pathology*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis*
  • Prion Proteins
  • Prions
  • Protein Precursors / analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Amyloid
  • Biomarkers
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • PRNP protein, human
  • Prion Proteins
  • Prions
  • Protein Precursors