Morphologically distinct types of amyloid plaques point the way to a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis

M. R. D'Andrea, R. G. Nagele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The details of the sequence of pathological events leading to neuron death in Alzheimer's disease (AD) are not known. Even the formation of amyloid plaques, one of the major histopathological hallmarks of AD, is not clearly understood; both the origin of the amyloid and the means of its deposition remain unclear. It is still widely considered, however, that amyloid plaques undergo gradual growth in the interstitial space of the brain via continual extracellular deposition of amyloid beta peptides at "seeding sites," and that these growing plaques encroach progressively on neurons and their axons and dendritic processes, eventually leading to neuronal death. Actually, histopathological evidence to support this mechanism is sparse and of uncertain validity. The fact that the amyloid deposits in AD brains that are collectively referred to as plaques are of multiple types and that each seems to have a different origin often is overlooked. We have shown experimentally that many of the so-called "diffuse amyloid plaques," which lack associated inflammatory cells, are either the result of leaks of amyloid from blood vessels at focal sites of blood-brain barrier breaches or are artifacts resulting from grazing sections through the margins of dense core plaques. In addition, we have provided experimental evidence that neuronal death via necrosis leaves a residue that takes the form of a spheroid "cloud" of amyloid, released by cell lysis, surrounding a dense core that often contains neuronal nuclear material. Support for a neuronal origin for these "dense core amyloid plaques" includes their ability to attract inflammatory cells (microglia and immigrant macrophages) and that they contain nuclear and cytoplasmic components that are somewhat resistant to proteolysis by lysosomes released during neuronal cell lysis. We discuss here the clinical and therapeutic importance of recognizing that amyloid deposition occurs both within neurons (intracellular) and in the interstitial (extracellular) space of the brain. For dense core plaques, we propose that the latter location largely follows from the former. This scenario suggests that blocking intraneuronal amyloid deposition should be a primary therapeutic target. This strategy also would be effective for blocking the gradual compromise of neuronal function resulting from this intraneuronal deposition, and the eventual death and lysis of these amyloid-burdened neurons that leads to amyloid release and the appearance of dense core amyloid plaques in the interstitium of AD brains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-147
Number of pages15
JournalBiotechnic and Histochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Histology
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Morphologically distinct types of amyloid plaques point the way to a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this