Heterogeneous Association of Alzheimer's Disease-Linked Amyloid-β and Amyloid-β Protein Precursor with Synapses

Katarina Willén, Agnieszka Sroka, Reisuke H. Takahashi, Gunnar K. Gouras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is increasingly viewed as a disease of synapses. Loss of synapses correlates better with cognitive decline than amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, the hallmark neuropathological lesions of AD. Soluble forms of amyloid-β (Aβ) have emerged as mediators of synapse dysfunction. Aβ binds to, accumulates, and aggregates in synapses. However, the anatomical and neurotransmitter specificity of Aβ and the amyloid-β protein precursor (AβPP) in AD remain poorly understood. In addition, the relative roles of Aβ and AβPP in the development of AD, at pre- versus post-synaptic compartments and axons versus dendrites, respectively, remain unclear. Here we use immunogold electron microscopy and confocal microscopy to provide evidence for heterogeneity in the localization of Aβ/AβPP. We demonstrate that Aβ binds to a subset of synapses in cultured neurons, with preferential binding to glutamatergic compared to GABAergic neurons. We also highlight the challenge of defining pre- versus post-synaptic localization of this binding by confocal microscopy. Further, endogenous Aβ42 accumulates in both glutamatergic and GABAergic AβPP/PS1 transgenic primary neurons, but at varying levels. Moreover, upon knock-out of presenilin 1 or inhibition of γ-secretase AβPP C-terminal fragments accumulate both pre- and post-synaptically; however earlier pre-synaptically, consistent with a higher rate of AβPP processing in axons. A better understanding of the synaptic and anatomical selectivity of Aβ/AβPP in AD can be important for the development of more effective new therapies for this major disease of aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-524
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Neurosciences

Free keywords

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • amyloid-beta
  • gamma-secretase
  • synapse


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