Agrin is a heparan sulfate proteoglycan that is widely expressed in neurons and microvascular basal lamina in the rodent and avian central nervous system. Agrin induces the differentiation of nerve-muscle synapses, but its function in either normal or diseased brains is not known. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by loss of synapses, changes in microvascular architecture, and formation of neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques.
Here we have asked whether AD causes changes in the distribution and biochemical properties of agrin. Immunostaining of normal, aged human central nervous system revealed that agrin is expressed in neurons in multiple brain areas. Robust agrin immunoreactivity was observed uniformly in the microvascular basal lamina. In AD brains, agrin is highly concentrated in both diffuse and neuritic plaques as well as neurofibrillary tangles; neuronal expression of agrin also was observed. Furthermore, patients with AD had microvascular alterations characterized by thinning and fragmentation of the basal lamina. Detergent extraction and Western blotting showed that virtually all the agrin in normal brain is soluble in 1% SDS. In contrast, a large fraction of the agrin in AD brains is insoluble under these conditions, suggesting that it is tightly associated with beta-amyloid.
Together, these data indicate that the agrin abnormalities observed in AD are closely linked to beta-amyloid deposition. These observations suggest that altered agrin expression in the microvasculature and the brain parenchyma contribute to the pathogenesis of AD.
Source: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1999 May 25;96(11):6468-72
PMID: 10339611, UI: 99272717
(Department of Pathology (Neuropathology Division), Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, 593 Eddy Street, Providence, RI 02903, USA.)