BACKGROUND: Reelin and its downstream signaling members are important modulators of actin and microtubule cytoskeleton dynamics, a fundamental prerequisite for proper neurodevelopment and adult neuronal functions. Reductions in Reelin levels have been suggested to contribute to Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathophysiology. We have previously reported an age-related reduction in Reelin levels and its accumulation in neuritic varicosities along the olfactory-limbic tracts, which correlated with cognitive impairments in aged mice. Here, we aimed to investigate whether a similar Reelin-associated neuropathology is observed in the aged human hippocampus and whether it correlated with dementia status.
RESULTS: Our immunohistochemical stainings revealed the presence of N- and C-terminus-containing Reelin fragments in corpora amylacea (CAm), aging-associated spherical deposits. The density of these deposits was increased in the molecular layer of the subiculum of AD compared to non-demented individuals. Despite the limitation of a small sample size, our evaluation of several neuronal and glial markers indicates that the presence of Reelin in CAm might be related to aging-associated impairments in neuronal transport leading to accumulation of organelles and protein metabolites in neuritic varicosities, as previously suggested by the findings and discussions in rodents and primates.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that aging- and disease-associated changes in Reelin levels and proteolytic processing might play a role in the formation of CAm by altering cytoskeletal dynamics. However, its presence may also be an indicator of a degenerative state of neuritic compartments.