Acta Neuropathologica

, Volume 114, Issue 6, pp 551–571

Mechanisms of amyloid plaque pathogenesis


DOI: 10.1007/s00401-007-0284-8

Cite this article as:
Fiala, J.C. Acta Neuropathol (2007) 114: 551. doi:10.1007/s00401-007-0284-8


The first ultrastructural investigations of Alzheimer’s disease noted the prominence of degenerating mitochondria in the dystrophic neurites of amyloid plaques, and speculated that this degeneration might be a major contributor to plaque pathogenesis. However, the fate of these organelles has received scant consideration in the intervening decades. A number of hypotheses for the formation and progression of amyloid plaques have since been suggested, including glial secretion of amyloid, somal and synaptic secretion of amyloid-beta protein from neurons, and endosomal–lysosomal aggregation of amyloid-beta protein in the cell bodies of neurons, but none of these hypotheses fully account for the focal accumulation of amyloid in plaques. In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid plaques occur in a variety of conditions, and these conditions are all accompanied by dystrophic neurites characteristic of disrupted axonal transport. The disruption of axonal transport results in the autophagocytosis of mitochondria without normal lysosomal degradation, and recent evidence from aging, traumatic injury, Alzheimer’s disease and transgenic mice models of Alzheimer’s disease, suggests that the degeneration of these autophagosomes may lead to amyloid production within dystrophic neurites. The theory of amyloid plaque pathogenesis has thus come full circle, back to the intuitions of the very first researchers in the field.


Alzheimer’s disease Amyloid-beta protein Autophagy Axonal transport Mitochondria Prion diseases Traumatic brain injury 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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