OUP user menu

Caspase Dependent DNA Fragmentation Might Be Associated with Excitotoxicity in Alzheimer Disease

Eliezer Masliah MD, Margaret Mallory BS, Michael Alford BA, Seigo Tanaka MD, PhD, Lawrence A. Hansen MD
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00005072-199811000-00007 1041-1052 First published online: 1 November 1998


Recent studies have shown that deficient functioning of glutamate transporters (GTs) in Alzheimer disease (AD) might lead to neurodegeneration via excitotoxicity; however, the characteristics of cell death and pathways involved are not yet clear. The main objective of the present study was to determine if deficient GT functioning in AD could be associated with cell damage and caspase activation. For this purpose, we analyzed the levels of caspase-1 and 3 immunoreactivity in AD and control brains and correlated this data with the numbers of cells displaying DNA fragmentation, GT activity, and amyloid precursor protein (APP) mRNA expression. Compared to controls, AD cases showed extensive positive labeling of neurons and glial cells with an assay for DNA fragmentation suggestive of cell damage, as well as increased neuronal caspase-3 and Bcl-2 immunoreactivity. Linear regression analysis showed a strong negative correlation between GT activity and apoptosis, and between deficient GT functioning and caspase-3 immunoreactivity. Neurons displaying DNA fragmentation presented more intense caspase-3 immunoreactivity than intact neurons. In addition, the altered ratio between the spliced forms of APP correlated with DNA fragmentation and caspase-3 immunolabeling. Taken together, these results support the possibility that excitotoxic injury associated with deficient GT functioning and an imbalance in ratio of spliced APP forms might lead to cell death via caspase-3 activation.

Key Words
  • Alzheimer disease
  • Amyloid precursor protein
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Glutamate transporter
  • Neurodegeneration