Expression of Apoptosis-related Proteins and of mRNA for Dopaminergic Receptors in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells From Patients With Alzheimer Disease

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In search for biomarkers of neurodegeneration, increasing attention has been focussed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). In particular, PBMC from patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) have been suggested to carry apoptotic changes and alterations of neurotransmitter receptor expression, which may resemble those occurring in central nervous system neurons. We investigated the expression of apoptosis-related proteins Bcl-2, Bax, and caspase-3 and the levels of dopaminergic receptors (DR) D3 and D5 mRNA in PBMC from 17 AD patients and 11 age-matched healthy subjects. Apoptosis-related proteins were assayed by standard Western blotting analysis and DR mRNA by real-time polymerase chain reaction techniques. PBMC from healthy subjects and from AD patients expressed Bcl-2, Bax, and caspase-3 to about the same extent, and the Bcl-2/Bax ratio did not differ in the 2 groups. Levels of mRNA for DRD3 and DRD5 were similar in cells from healthy subjects and from AD patients. In conclusion, we found no evidence that PBMC from AD patients may express apoptosis-related proteins or DR mRNA to any different extent in comparison to cells from healthy subjects. These findings do not necessarily imply that immune cells cannot be exploited as biomarkers in AD (and in other central nervous system disorders). Future studies, however, should take into account the inherent complexity of the immune network.

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