To study the association between Alzheimer' s disease (AD) and apolipoprotein E (apoE) polymorphism and apoE epsilon4 allele; and to investigate the role of apoE in senile plaque formation.
During the period from 1982 to 2003, 27 portmortem cases of AD from the archival files of Department of Pathology of Beijing Hospital, diagnosed according to the consortium to establish a registry for Alzheimer's disease (CERAD) criteria, were enrolled into this study. Among the 27 cases studied, there were 23 cases of definite AD and 4 cases of probable AD. Postmortem brain tissues from 67 neurologically unremarkable deceased were used as age-matched controls. Immunohistochemical study for beta-amyloid (Abeta) and Tau protein, as well as immunohistochemical study for Abeta/apoE, were performed in all AD cases using streptavidin-peroxidase (SP) and double immunostaining (SP/ABC) methods, respectively. Senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the 23 cases of definite AD were further quantified. The apoE genotypes in all cases were analyzed by polymerase chain reaction and restriction fragment length polymorphism technologies.
Immunohistochemical study for Abeta distinguished 4 different types of senile plaques: diffuse non-neuritic plaques, diffuse neuritic plaques, dense-core neuritic plaques and dense-core non-neuritic plaques. Double immunohistochemistry for Abeta/apoE showed that some senile plaques were positive for both Abeta and apoE. The expression rates for Abeta and apoE in these 4 different types of senile plaques were 4. 28%, 84. 71%, 8.50% and 2.51%, respectively. The positivity rate for Abeta/apoE in diffuse neuritic plaques were significantly higher than those in other 3 types (P < 0.01). The frequency of occurrence of apoE epsilon4 allele in AD was significantly higher than that in the control group (P < 0.01). The numbers of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in AD cases with apoE epsilon4 allele were also significantly higher than those in AD cases without apoE epsilon4 allele (P < 0.01).
ApoE polymorphism is associated with AD. The presence of apoE epsilon4 allele carries a higher risk for the development of AD. ApoE may also play an important role in the transformation of diffuse non-neuritic plaques to diffuse neuritic plaques.