Neuritic plaques are a defining feature of Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology. These structures are composed of extracellular accumulations of amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) and other plaque-associated proteins, surrounded by large, swollen axons and dendrites (dystrophic neurites) and activated glia. Dystrophic neurites are thought to disrupt neuronal function, but whether this damage is static, dynamic, or reversible is unknown. To address this, we monitored neuritic plaques in the brains of living PDAPP;Thy-1:YFP transgenic mice, a model that develops AD-like pathology and also stably expresses yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) in a subset of neurons in the brain. Using multiphoton microscopy, we observed and monitored amyloid through cranial windows in PDAPP;Thy-1:YFP double-transgenic mice using the in vivo amyloid-imaging fluorophore methoxy-X04, and individual YFP-labeled dystrophic neurites by their inherent fluorescence. In vivo studies using this system suggest that amyloid-associated dystrophic neurites are relatively stable structures in PDAPP;Thy-1:YFP transgenic mice over several days. However, a significant reduction in the number and size of dystrophic neurites was seen 3 days after Aβ deposits were cleared by anti-Aβ antibody treatment. This analysis suggests that ongoing axonal and dendritic damage is secondary to Aβ and is, in part, rapidly reversible.
Robert P. Brendza, Brian J. Bacskai, John R. Cirrito, Kelly A. Simmons, Jesse M. Skoch, William E. Klunk, Chester A. Mathis, Kelly R. Bales, Steven M. Paul, Bradley T. Hyman, David M. Holtzman