Preservation of nucleus basalis neurons containing choline acetyltransferase and the vesicular acetylcholine transporter in the elderly with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer's disease

Michelle L. Gilmor, Jeffrey D. Erickson, Hélène Varoqui, Louis B. Hersh, David A. Bennett, Elizabeth J. Cochran, Elliott J. Mufson, Allan I. Levey

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220 Scopus citations

Abstract

Immunocytochemistry for choline acetyltransferase (CHAT) and the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) was used to examine the expression of these linked cholinergic markers in human basal forebrain, including cases with early stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Previous neurochemical studies have measured decreased CHAT activity in terminal fields, but little change or even increased levels of VAChT. To determine total cholinergic neuron numbers in the nucleus basalis of Meynert (nbM), stereologic methods were applied to tissue derived from three groups of individuals with varying levels of cognition: no cognitive impairment (NCI), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and early-stage Alzheimer's disease (AD). Both markers were expressed robustly in nucleus basalis neurons and across all three groups. On average, there was no significant difference between the number of CHAT(210,000) and VAChT- (174,000) immunopositive neurons in the nbM per hemisphere in NCI cases for which the biological variation was calculated to be 17%. There was approximately a 15% nonsignificant reduction in the number of cholinergic neurons in the nbM in the AD cases with no decline in MCI cases. The number of CHAT- and VAChT-immunopositive neurons was shown to correlate significantly with the severity of dementia determined by scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination, but showed no relationship to apolipoprotein E allele status, age, gender, education, or postmortem interval when all clinical groups were combined or evaluated separately. These data suggest that cholinergic neurons, and the coexpression of CHAT and VAChT, are relatively preserved in early stages of AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-704
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Volume411
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 6 1999

Keywords

  • Basal forebrain
  • Choline acetyltransferase
  • Cholinergic
  • Dementia
  • Nucleus basalis
  • Stereology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)

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