, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 68-75

Ubiquitin-positive achromatic neurons in corticobasal degeneration

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A 66-year-old woman presented with an alien limb syndrome without dementia. The course of her illness was unremitting and at autopsy 6 years later her diagnosis was confirmed as corticobasal degeneration without Alzheimer-type pathology. Although the presence of ballooned achromatic cortical neurons and cell loss from the substantia nigra distinguishes such patients, the site and density of achromatic neurons has not previously been quantified. We show that immunohistochemistry for the cell stress protein ubiquitin selectively stains these achromatic neurons, whereas they do not stain for abnormally phosphorylated tau protein. Phosphorylated neurofilament antibodies recognise both ballooned and non-ballooned neurons. In this case, high densities of ubiquitin-positive ballooned neurons were found in frontal cortical regions with the highest densities in layers V and VI of the anterior cingulate cortex. In addition, high densities of ubiquitin-positive ballooned neurons were found in the insular cortex, claustrum and amygdala. These results confirm past reports of frontal pathology, but show that there is also considerable pathology in insular and parahippocampal cortical regions and some subcortical regions. Our findings suggest that the distribution and staining characteristics of ballooned neurons in corticobasal degeneration may help to differentiate these cases pathologically, while the absence of dementia appears to be an important clinical criterion.