Amyloid A4 protein and its precursor in Down's syndrome and Alzheimer's disease

B. Rumble, R. Retallack, C. Hilbich, G. Simms, G. Multhaup, R. Martins, A. Hockey, P. Montgomery, K. Beyreuther, C. L. Masters

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546 Citations (Scopus)


In patients with Alzheimer's disease, amyloid fibrils that are aggregates of A4 protein subunits are deposited in the brain. A similar process occurs at an earlier age in persons with Down's syndrome. To investigate the deposition of amyloid in these diseases, we used a radioimmunoassay to measure levels of the amyloid precursor (PreA4) in the serum of 17 patients with Down's syndrome, 15 patients with Alzheimer's disease, and 33 normal elderly controls. The mean (± SD) concentration of serum PreA4 was increased 1.5-fold in patients with Down's syndrome (2.49 ± 1.13 nmol per liter) as compared with that in controls (1.68 ± 0.49 nmol per liter; P < 0.007); the levels in patients with Alzheimer's disease were similar to those in controls (1.83 ± 0.78; P < 0.98). We also found that the concentration of PreA4 in the brain tissue of two adults with Down's syndrome (100 and 190 pmol per gram) was higher than that in the brain tissue of either 26 patients with Alzheimer's disease (64.4 ± 17.3 pmol per gram) or 17 elderly controls with neurologic disease (68.5 ± 26.3 pmol per gram). Immunocytochemical studies of brain tissue from 26 patients with Down's syndrome showed that the deposition of A4 protein amyloid began in these patients approximately 50 years earlier than it began in 127 normal aging subjects studied previously, although the rate of deposition was the same. We conclude that, since the gene for PreA4 is on the long arm of chromosome 21, which is present in triplicate in Down's syndrome, overexpression of this gene may lead to increased levels of PreA4 and amyloid deposition in Down's syndrome. However, since increased levels of PreA4 are not present in Alzheimer's disease, additional factors must account for the amyloid deposition in that disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1446-1452
Number of pages7
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


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