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Morphologic and Histochemical Characteristics of a Spared Subset of Striatal Neurons in Huntington's Disease

Robert J. Ferrante M.S., Neil W. Kowall M.D., M. Flint Beal M.D., Joseph B. Martin M.D., Edward D. Bird M.D., E. P. Richardson Jr. M.D.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00005072-198701000-00002 12-27 First published online: 1 January 1987

Abstract

We have previously found that a biochemically distinct subset of neurons, containing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase (NADPH-d), is selectively resistant to the degenerative process that affects the striatum in Huntington's disease (HD). We report the morphologic and histochemical characteristics of these striatal neurons and their distribution with respect to the histochemical compartments as defined by acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. Sections of striatum were stained histochemically for NADPH-d and AChE and immunocytochemically for somatostatin and neuropeptide Y-like immunoreactivity. The diaphorase endproduct was contained within medium-sized neurons which corresponded morphologically to a category of aspiny interneurons. Combined techniques showed that NADPH-d, somatostatin, and neuropeptide Y coexisted within the same neurons in controls and patients with HD. The density of these neurons was greater in the ventral putamen and the nucleus accumbens than in the remainder of the striatum. The distinctive AChE pattern of high and low enzyme activity was altered in HD. The AChE-rich matrix zone was markedly reduced in size, while the total area of zones of low enzyme activity was not different from that found in control striatum. The distinctive AChE pattern of high and low enzyme activity was altered in HD. The AChE-rich matrix zone was markedly reduced in size, while the total area of zones of low enzyme activity was not different from that found in control striatum. The relation between these AChE chemical compartments and the distribution of preserved diaphorase neurons remained intact; NADPH-d neurons were predominantly observed in the matrix zone.

Key Words
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Huntington's disease
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • NADPH-diaphorase
  • Neostriatum
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Somatostatin