The Fibrous Proteins of Brain: A Primer for Gerontologists

  • Dennis J. Selkoe
  • Michael L. Shelanski
Part of the Advances in Behavioral Biology book series (ABBI, volume 23)


The morphological hallmarks of the Alzheimer type of presenile dementia and of a major portion of the senile dementias are neuro-fibrillary tangles and senile plaques. The latter structures are composed of degenerating neuritic processes within a core of congophilic material, presumably amyloid (Terry and Wisniewski, 1970). Neurofibrillary tangles were originally appreciated as fine, argentophilic fibrils in the light microscope. While the neuron normally contains some such fibrils, they are greatly increased in numbers and in thickness in Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia. Electronmicroscopic studies (Kidd, 1963; Terry, 1963) showed quite clearly that these fibrils were composed of linear structures which twisted every 80 nm and had a diameter at these nodes of 9nm and a maximum diameter between the nodes of almost 20 nm. The bulk of morphological evidence points to this pattern being due to a helical twisting of filaments around each other. These structures have been seen only in the human, only in brain and in the brain only within neurons. Nonetheless, the morphology of these twisted filaments combined with the general attention now being received by the normally occurring fibrillary elements of the brain has led to a curiosity about what relationship, if any, exists between the pathological structures and the normal microtubules, neurofilaments and micro-filaments of the nervous system. Some aspects of this question will be addressed by Dr. Iqbal later in this symposium.


Intermediate Filament Neurofibrillary Tangle Senile Plaque Senile Dementia Neurofibrillary Degeneration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis J. Selkoe
    • 1
  • Michael L. Shelanski
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neuropathology, Harvard Medical School and Department of NeuroscienceChildren’s Hospital Medical CenterBostonUSA

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