BACKGROUND: While most patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) present with memory complaints, 30% of patients with early disease onset present with non-amnestic symptoms. This atypical presentation is thought to be caused by a different spreading of neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) than originally proposed by Braak and Braak. Recent studies suggest a prominent role for neuroinflammation in the spreading of tau pathology.
METHODS: We aimed to explore whether an atypical spreading of pathology in AD is associated with an atypical distribution of neuroinflammation. Typical and atypical AD cases were selected based on both NFT distribution and amnestic or non-amnestic clinical presentation. Immunohistochemistry was performed on the temporal pole and superior parietal lobe of 10 typical and 9 atypical AD cases. The presence of amyloid-beta (N-terminal; IC16), pTau (AT8), reactive astrocytes (GFAP), microglia (Iba1, CD68, and HLA-DP/DQ/DR), and complement factors (C1q, C3d, C4b, and C5b-9) was quantified by image analysis. Differences in lobar distribution patterns of immunoreactivity were statistically assessed using a linear mixed model.
RESULTS: We found a temporal dominant distribution for amyloid-beta, GFAP, and Iba1 in both typical and atypical AD. Distribution of pTau, CD68, HLA-DP/DQ/DR, C3d, and C4b differed between AD variants. Typical AD cases showed a temporal dominant distribution of these markers, whereas atypical AD cases showed a parietal dominant distribution. Interestingly, when quantifying for the number of amyloid-beta plaques instead of stained surface area, atypical AD cases differed in distribution pattern from typical AD cases. Remarkably, plaque morphology and localization of neuroinflammation within the plaques was different between the two phenotypes.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data show a different localization of neuroinflammatory markers and amyloid-beta plaques between AD phenotypes. In addition, these markers reflect the atypical distribution of tau pathology in atypical AD, suggesting that neuroinflammation might be a crucial link between amyloid-beta deposits, tau pathology, and clinical symptoms.