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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Prion Disease Induces Alzheimer Disease-Like Neuropathologic Changes.

  • Author(s): Tousseyn, T
  • Bajsarowicz, K
  • Sánchez, H
  • Gheyara, A
  • Oehler, A
  • Geschwind, M
  • DeArmond, B
  • DeArmond, SJ
  • et al.

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We examined the brains of 266 patients with prion disease (PrionD) and found that 46 patients (17%) had Alzheimer disease (AD)-like changes. To explore potential mechanistic links between PrionD and AD, we exposed human brain aggregates (BrnAggs) to a brain homogenate from a patient with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and found that neurons in human BrnAggs produced many β-amyloid (Aβ; Aβ42) inclusions, whereas uninfected control-exposed human BrnAggs did not. Western blot analysis of 20 pooled Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease-infected BrnAggs verified Aβ42 levels higher than those in controls. We next examined the CA1 region of the hippocampus from 14 patients with PrionD and found that 5 patients had low levels of scrapie-associated prion protein (PrP), many Aβ42 intraneuronal inclusions, low apolipoprotein E-4 (APOE-4), and no significant nerve cell loss. Seven patients had high levels of PrP, low Aβ42, high APOE-4, and 40% nerve cell loss, suggesting that APOE-4 and PrP together cause neuron loss in PrionD. There were also increased levels of hyperphosphorylated tau protein (Hτ) and Hτ-positive neuropil threads and neuron bodies in both PrionD and AD groups. The brains of 6 age-matched control patients without dementia did not contain Aβ42 deposits; however, there were rare Hτ-positive threads in 5 controls, and 2 controls had few Hτ-positive nerve cell bodies. We conclude that PrionD may trigger biochemical changes similar to those triggered by AD and suggest that PrionD is a disease involving PrP, Aβ42, APOE-4, and abnormal tau.

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