We have used an antibody to the paired helical filament protein to immunohistochemically identify the regional distribution of subcortical nuclei containing neurofibrillary tangles in brains from Alzheimer's disease patients. Sections were examined from the cerebral cortex, diencephalon, midbrain and pons in seven Alzheimer's and three age-matched normal brains. The antibody sensitively stained the many tangles, and senile plaques, in the cerebral cortex of the Alzheimer's brains and the few tangles and senile plaques in the aged normal cortex. Ten subcortical nuclei contained many tangles in the Alzheimer's brains. The tangles were found not only within the locus coeruleus and dorsal raphe nucleus, which often have been shown to be involved in Alzheimer's neuropathology, but also within several other nuclei not previously related to this disease. For example, tangles were found in the nucleus paranigralis, peripeduncular nucleus, medial parabrachial nucleus and several midline thalamic nuclei. All of the nuclei which contained tangles have been shown, in neuroanatomical tracing studies, to project to the cerebral cortex. These data (a) indicate that Alzheimer's disease is a disease of the cerebral cortex and the numerous subcortical nuclei which diffusely innervate it, and (b) are consistent with the hypothesis that the cerebral cortex is the primary target of the disease and the interconnected subcortical nuclei are secondarily affected due to retrograde transport of a cortical pathogen or failure of normal transport of a trophic agent.
ASJC Scopus subject areas