Intracellular accumulation of PHFtau in Alzheimer's disease (AD) disrupts the neuronal cytoskeleton and other neuronal machinery and contributes to axonal and dendritic degeneration, and neuronal death. Furthermore, amyloid-β (Aβ) has been reported to be toxic to neurons and neurites. While loss of presynaptic elements is an established feature of AD, the nature and extent of dendritic degeneration has been infrequently studied. We investigated MAP2-immunoreactive dendrites using a novel method of high-throughput quantification and also measured cortical thickness and the densities of NeuN-immunoreactive neurons, PHFtau neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), and Aβ plaque burden in the subiculum in AD and elderly controls. Corrected for atrophy, the "dendritic arborization index" was significantly reduced by up to 66% in all three layers of the subiculum. Laminar thickness was reduced by an average 33% and there was a marked reduction in neuron density of approximately 50%. As expected, NFTs and Aβ plaques were significantly increased in AD. Dendritic arborization indices negatively correlated with NFT densities while no significant correlations were found with Aβ plaque densities. The pattern of dendritic loss in the subiculum and the correlations with NFT densities respectively suggest that deafferentation and intrinsic neurofibrillary degeneration both may contribute to dendritic loss in AD.
Falke, E., Nissanov, J., Mitchell, T. W., Bennett, D. A., Trojanowski, J. Q., & Arnold, S. E. (2003). Subicular dendritic arborization in Alzheimer’s disease correlates with neurofibrillary tangle density. American Journal of Pathology, 163(4), 1615–1621. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63518-3