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Pathophysiology of white matter perfusion in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia

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Rachel Barker , Emma L. Ashby , Dannielle Wellington , Vivienne M. Barrow , Jennifer C. Palmer , Patrick G. Kehoe , Margaret M. Esiri , Seth Love
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awu040 1524-1532 First published online: 11 March 2014

Summary

Little is known about the contributors and physiological responses to white matter hypoperfusion in the human brain. We previously showed the ratio of myelin-associated glycoprotein to proteolipid protein 1 in post-mortem human brain tissue correlates with the degree of ante-mortem ischaemia. In age-matched post-mortem cohorts of Alzheimer’s disease (n = 49), vascular dementia (n = 17) and control brains (n = 33) from the South West Dementia Brain Bank (Bristol), we have now examined the relationship between the ratio of myelin-associated glycoprotein to proteolipid protein 1 and several other proteins involved in regulating white matter vascularity and blood flow. Across the three cohorts, white matter perfusion, indicated by the ratio of myelin-associated glycoprotein to proteolipid protein 1, correlated positively with the concentration of the vasoconstrictor, endothelin 1 (P = 0.0005), and negatively with the concentration of the pro-angiogenic protein, vascular endothelial growth factor (P = 0.0015). The activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme, which catalyses production of the vasoconstrictor angiotensin II was not altered. In samples of frontal white matter from an independent (Oxford, UK) cohort of post-mortem brains (n = 74), we confirmed the significant correlations between the ratio of myelin-associated glycoprotein to proteolipid protein 1 and both endothelin 1 and vascular endothelial growth factor. We also assessed microvessel density in the Bristol (UK) samples, by measurement of factor VIII-related antigen, which we showed to correlate with immunohistochemical measurements of vessel density, and found factor VIII-related antigen levels to correlate with the level of vascular endothelial growth factor (P = 0.0487), suggesting that upregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor tends to increase vessel density in the white matter. We propose that downregulation of endothelin 1 and upregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor in the context of reduced ratio of myelin-associated glycoprotein to proteolipid protein 1 are likely to be protective physiological responses to reduced white matter perfusion. Further analysis of the Bristol cohort showed that endothelin 1 was reduced in the white matter in Alzheimer’s disease (P < 0.05) compared with control subjects, but not in vascular dementia, in which endothelin 1 tended to be elevated, perhaps reflecting abnormal regulation of white matter perfusion in vascular dementia. Our findings demonstrate the potential of post-mortem measurement of myelin proteins and mediators of vascular function, to assess physiological and pathological processes involved in the regulation of cerebral perfusion in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • brain ischaemia
  • cerebral blood flow
  • dementia
  • neuropathology
  • Abbreviations
    CAA
    cerebral amyloid angiopathy
    FVIIIRA
    factor VIII-related antigen
    VEGF
    vascular endothelial growth factor
  • This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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