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Keywords:

  • Down's syndrome;
  • Cholinergic;
  • Neuron;
  • Choline acetyltransferase;
  • Acetylcholinesterase;
  • Alzheimer's disease

Abstract We measured the activities of the cholinergic marker enzymes choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in autopsied brains of seven infants (age range 3 months to 1 year) with Down's syndrome (DS), a disorder in which virtually all individuals will develop by middle age the neuropathological changes of Alzheimer's disease accompanied by a marked brain cholinergic reduction. When compared with age-matched controls cholinergic enzyme activity was normal in all brain regions of the individuals with infant DS with the exception of above-normal activity in the putamen (ChAT) and the occipital cortex (AChE). Our neurochemical observations suggest that DS individuals begin life with a normal complement of brain cholinergic neurons. This opens the possibility of early therapeutic intervention to prevent the development of brain cholinergic changes in patients with DS.