Nerve growth factor receptor immunoreactivity within the nucleus basalis (Ch4) in Parkinson's disease: reduced cell numbers and co-localization with cholinergic neurons

Elliott J. Mufson, Lesa N. Presley, Jeffrey H. Kordower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

In a effort to better define the role cholinergic basal forebrain neurons play in human cognitive processes, a quantitative assessment of cholinergic nucleus basalis (Ch4) neurons was carried out in 5 patients with Parkinson's disease (PD; 4 non-demented and 1 demented) and 4 age-matched controls using nerve growth factor (NGF) receptor immunohistochemistry as a direct marker for cholinergic basal forebrain neurons. Virtually all (> 90%) NGF receptor-containing neurons co-localize with the specific cholinergic marker choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) within the nucleus basalis in PD. NGF receptor-containing neurons were reduced on average by 68% (range 38.6-87.4%) in the non-demented PD cases and by 88.6% in the demented PD patient. Loss of these neurons was heterogeneous across the nucleus basalis subfields with only the anterolateral and posterior Ch4 subregions demonstrating significant reductions of NGF receptor-containing neurons. The reduction in NGF receptor-containing neurons was accompanied by a decrease of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) containing fibers within temporal cortex and in some cases ChAT immunoreactivity in the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus. The numerous non-cholinergic AChE-rich pyramidal cells which were observed throughout the cortex of aged controls were also virtually absent in PD. Although PD patients exhibited severe reductions in Ch4 neurons, few neuritic plaques or neurofibrillary tangles were observed within the PD cortex or Ch4 and similar numbers of these AD-type pathologies were seen within age-matched controls. This suggests that Ch4 degeneration alone is not sufficient to induce such cytoskeletal abnormalities and that the neuron loss seen within Ch4 in AD and PD may be mediated through different processes. These results, coupled with the extensive basic and clinical literature linking acetylcholine and memory function, further indicate that Ch4 degeneration without additional cortical and/or subcortical pathology is not sufficient to impair cognition in PD. Perhaps additional pathology must be superimposed upon nucleus basalis degeneration to induce dementia in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Research
Volume539
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 18 1991
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cholinergic
  • Human
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Nerve growth factor
  • Parkinsonism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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