The Effects of Alzheimer's Disease, Other Dementias, and Premortem Course on β-Amyloid Precursor Protein Messenger RNA in Frontal Cortex


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. P. J. Harrison at University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, OX3 7JX, U.K.


Abstract: There are conflicting data regarding alterations in β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) mRNAs in Alzheimer's disease (AD). This may be due partly to variables such as agonal state and choice of control group. We have used in situ hybridization histochemistry to study expression of APP mRNAs, with and without the domain encoding the Kunitz protease inhibitor, in a way that overcomes some of the limitations of the current data. Tissue from frontal cortex was collected at rapid autopsy from patients with AD or other cognitive impairments whose terminal phase was prospectively assessed. There were three main findings. Firstly, the amount of APP mRNAs correlated strongly with glutamate decarboxylase activity and was reduced in association with terminal pyrexia. These correlations suggest that agonal state affects APP mRNA and, therefore, that differences in premortem course may contribute to the varying changes in APP transcript abundance reported in AD. Secondly, a reduction of both forms of APP mRNA, normalized to polyadenylated mRNA, was found in AD compared with normal controls and with non-AD dementias. This supports findings that the APP-related pathology of AD is not due to overexpression of APP mRNA or an altered proportion of Kunitz protease inhibitor-containing isoforms. Thirdly, the amount of APP mRNA correlated inversely with that of heat-shock protein (hsx70) mRNA. This relationship was unexpected given current theories that APP expression occurs as part of a stress response, and suggests that other factors predominate in determining neocortical APP mRNA content in neurodegenerative disorders.