Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Chair of Metabolic Biochemistry

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Oligomeric amyloid β associates with postsynaptic densities and correlates with excitatory synapse loss near senile plaques

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar 10;106(10):4012-7. Epub 2009 Feb 19.

Authors/Editors: Koffie RM
Hashimoto T
Adams KW
Mielke ML
Garcia-Alloza M
Micheva KD
Smith SJ
Kim ML
Lee VM
Hyman BT
Spires-Jones TL
Publication Date: 2009
Type of Publication: Journal Article
Synapse loss correlates with a cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease (AD), but whether this is caused by fibrillar deposits known as senile plaques or soluble oligomeric forms of amyloid beta (Abeta) is controversial. By using array tomography, a technique that combines ultrathin sectioning of tissue with immunofluorescence, allowing precise quantification of small structures, such as synapses, we have tested the hypothesis that oligomeric Abeta surrounding plaques contributes to synapse loss in a mouse model of AD. We find that senile plaques are surrounded by a halo of oligomeric Abeta. Analysis of >14,000 synapses (represented by PSD95-stained excitatory synapses) shows that there is a 60% loss of excitatory synapses in the halo of oligomeric Abeta surrounding plaques and that the density increases to reach almost control levels in volumes further than 50 microm from a plaque in an approximately linear fashion (linear regression, r(2) = 0.9; P < 0.0001). Further, in transgenic cortex, microdeposits of oligomeric Abeta associate with a subset of excitatory synapses, which are significantly smaller than those not in contact with oligomeric Abeta. The proportion of excitatory synapses associated with Abeta correlates with decreasing density (correlation, -0.588; P < 0.0001). These data show that senile plaques are a potential reservoir of oligomeric Abeta, which colocalizes with the postsynaptic density and is associated with spine collapse, reconciling the apparently competing schools of thought of "plaque" vs. "oligomeric Abeta" as the synaptotoxic species in the brain of AD patients.

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