Sera of normal controls and of patients with neurological diseases contain antineurofilament antibodies. Recent studies suggest that biochemically and immunologically distinct subclasses of neurofilaments occur in different types of neurons. Alzheimer's disease (AD), the major cause of dementia, is associated with a marked degeneration of brain cholinergic neurons. In the present work we characterized the repertoire and age dependence of antineurofilament antibodies in normal sera and examined whether the degeneration of cholinergic neurons in AD is associated with serum antibodies directed specifically against the neurofilaments of mammalian cholinergic neurons. This was performed by immunoblot assays utilizing neurofilaments from the purely cholinergic bovine ventral root neurons and from the chemically heterogeneous bovine dorsal root neurons. Antibodies to the heavy neurofilament protein NF-H were detected in normal control sera. Their levels were significantly higher in older (aged 70-79) than in younger (aged 40-59) subjects. These antibodies bound similarly to bovine ventral root and dorsal root NF-H and their NF-H specificity was unchanged during aging. In contrast, the levels of IgG in AD sera that are directed against ventral root cholinergic NF-H were higher than those directed against the chemically heterogeneous dorsal root NF-H. Immunoblot experiments utilizing dephosphorylated ventral root and dorsal root NF-H and chymotryptic fragments of these molecules revealed that AD sera contain a repertoire of antimamalian NF-H IgG. A subpopulation of these antibodies binds to phosphorylated epitopes that are specifically enriched in ventral root cholinergic NF-H and that are located on the carboxy terminal domain of this molecule. The level of these anticholinergic NF-H IgG are significantly higher in AD sera than in those of both normal controls and patients with multi-infarct dementia.
- Alzheimer's disease
- normal aging