• Alzheimer disease;
  • Agonal stress;
  • Heat-shock response;
  • hsp70 mRNA induction

Abstract: Systematic review of antemortem clinical information on randomly selected Alzheimer disease (AD) patients revealed that ∼40% of the patients had a recorded fever of ≥39.2°C at or near death. Using isolation and quantitation techniques appropriate for analysis of human brain mRNAs, we found that low levels of inducible heat-shock protein 70 (hsp70) mRNAs were present in cerebellum of afebrile AD patients and that mRNA levels were usually lower in two brain regions affected in AD, i.e., hippocampus and temporal cortex. Levels of hsp70 mRNAs were increased three- to 33-fold in cerebellum of febrile patients compared with levels in patients whose recorded temperatures were ≤37.5°C. Levels of hsp70 mRNAs were also increased in hippocampus and cortex of these febrile patients, but to a lesser extent than cerebellum. Heat-shock cognate 70 (hsc70) mRNAs were present at highest levels in afebrile cerebellum and were also present in the other brain regions. In cerebellum of patients with the highest temperatures, hsc70 mRNAs were induced severalfold over basal levels. Although there was a low and variable induction of hsc70 mRNAs in temporal cortex of these patients, there was no evidence for any induction in hippocampus. Increased heat-shock 70 mRNA levels did not correlate with hypoxia, coma, hypertension, hypoglycemia, seizures, or medication. These results indicate that a specific agonal stress, namely fever, can increase the levels of heat shock 70 mRNAs in AD brain; however, there is no evidence to suggest that affected regions of AD brain have higher overall levels of these mRNAs. Failure to obtain adequate agonal state information could result in inaccurately identifying short-term stress-related changes in postmortem brain as neuropathology characteristic of a chronic disease state.