BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease mostly affecting the basal forebrain, cortex and hippocampus whereas the cerebellum is relatively spared. The reason behind this region-specific brain damage in AD is not well understood. Here, we report our data suggesting "differential free fatty acid metabolism in the different brain areas" as a potentially important factor in causing the region-specific damage observed in AD brain.<br /><br />FINDINGS: The astroglia from two different rat brain regions, cortex (region affected in AD) and cerebellum (unaffected region), were treated with 0.2 mM of palmitic acid. The conditioned media were then transferred to the cortical neurons to study the possible effects on the two main, AD-associated protein abnormalities, viz. BACE1 upregulation and hyperphosphorylation of tau. The conditioned media from palmitic-acid treated cortical astroglia, but not the cerebellar astroglia, significantly elevated levels of phosphorylated tau and BACE1 in cortical neurons as compared to controls (47 +/- 7% and 45 +/- 4%, respectively).<br /><br />CONCLUSION: The present data provide an experimental explanation for the region-specific damage observed in AD brain; higher fatty acid-metabolizing capacity of cortical astroglia as compared to cerebellar astroglia, may play a causal role in increasing vulnerability of cortex in AD, while sparing cerebellum.
Patil, S., Balu, D., Melrose, J., & Chan, C. (2008). Brain region-specificity of palmitic acid-induced abnormalities associated with Alzheimer’s disease. BMC Research Notes, 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1756-0500-1-20