Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by the extensive deposition of the 42‐amino‐acid β‐amyloid or A4 protein in neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles within the brain. This protein is liberated from the much larger amyloid protein precursor (APP). Multiple species of APP have been proposed, including several forms that contain a 56 amino acid insert sequence analogous to the Kunitz protease inhibitors. Although expression of APP mRNA is reportedly altered in AD brain and various roles for APP have been proposed, the pathogenesis of amyloid deposition and AD remains unclear. AD is also characterized by specific memory impairments associated with decreased cholinergic activity. While aging rats do not develop mature amyloid pathology, behaviorally impaired aged rats demonstrate an analogous cholinergic decline. In this study, we examined behaviorally characterized aged rats and normal young controls for changes in APP immunohistochemistry by using anti‐APP antibodies, which detect N‐ or C‐terminal regions and which distinguish APP species with or without the Kunitz protease inhibitor domain. The results show specific age‐ and behavior‐related changes in cortical APP immunoreactivity as well as limited numbers of APP immunoreactive deposits in the aged rats. Additionally, we found that lesions of the fimbria‐fornix pathway, which in part mimic the memory impairments and loss of cholinergic activity seen in AD, result in the marked accumulation of APP immunoreactive material in the region of cholinergic fiber degeneration in the hippocampus. These findings are discussed in relation to the pathogenesis of AD in humans. © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
- Alzheimer's disease