, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 117-127

Ultrastructural studies of the cells forming amyloid in the cortical vessel wall in Alzheimer's disease

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Summary

Ultrastructural studies of serial sections of the vessels with amyloid deposits in the brain cortex of patients with Alzheimer's disease showed that cells in the position of pericytes — perivascular cells - and perivascular microglial cells are producers of amyloid fibrils in the vascular wall. Three types of changes from normal are distinguishable in the vessel wall: (1) semicircular or circular thickening of vascular wall containing a large amount of amorphous material and various number of amyloid fibrils, (2) tuberous amyloid deposits containing both amorphous material and amyloid fibrils, some of the fibrils being arranged in strata and others arranged radially, and (3) amyloid star composed of a predominantly radial arrangement of bundles of amyloid fibrils and a less prominent amorphous component. A mixture of amorphous material and amyloid fibrils is present in cell membrane envaginations of perivascular cells, and occasionally perivascular microglial cells. Bundles of amyloid fibrils are found in altered cisternae of the endoplasmic reticulum and in the channels confluent with the infoldings of the plasma membrane of perivascular microglial cells. The amyloid deposition in the wall of the vessel causes degeneration of endothelial cells and the reduction of, and in some vessels obliteration of, the vessel lumen. In areas affected by amyloid angiopathy, extensive degeneration both of the neuropil and of neurons was observed. These changes were accompanied by astrogliosis. This study demonstrates similarities in amyloid formation in amyloid angiopathy and in β-amyloid plaques in the neuropil and suggests that cells of the mononuclear phagocyte system of the brain (perivascular cells and perivascular microglia) are engaged in amyloid fibril formation.

Supported in part by funds from the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and a grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Aging No. PO1-AGO-4220