A Histologic Study of the Circadian System in Parkinson Disease, Multiple System Atrophy, and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

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Abstract

Importance

Circadian dysfunction may be associated with the symptoms and neurodegeneration in Parkinson disease (PD), multiple system atrophy (MSA), and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), although the underlying neuroanatomical site of disruption and pathophysiological mechanisms are not fully understood.

Objective

To perform a neuropathological analysis of disease-specific inclusions in the key structures of the circadian system in patients with PD, MSA, and PSP.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This investigation was a brain bank case-control study assessing neuropathological inclusions in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus and pineal gland in healthy controls, PD (Lewy pathology), MSA (glial cytoplasmic inclusions), and PSP (tau inclusions). The study analyzed 12 healthy control, 28 PD, 11 MSA, and 21 PSP samples from consecutive brain donations (July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2016) to the Queen Square Brain Bank for Neurological Disorders and the Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank, London, United Kingdom. Cases were excluded if neither SCN nor pineal tissue was available.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Disease-specific neuropathological changes were graded using a standard semiquantitative scoring system (absent, mild, moderate, severe, or very severe) and compared between groups.

Results

Because of limited tissue availability, the following total samples were examined in a semiquantitative histologic analysis: 5 SCNs and 7 pineal glands in the control group (6 male; median age at death, 83.8 years; interquartile range [IQR], 78.2-88.0 years), 13 SCNs and 17 pineal glands in the PD group (22 male; median age at death, 78.8 years; IQR, 75.5-83.8 years), 5 SCNs and 6 pineal glands in the MSA group (7 male; median age at death, 69.5 years; IQR, 61.6-77.7 years), and 5 SCNs and 19 pineal glands in the PSP group (13 male; median age at death, 74.3 years; IQR, 69.7-81.1 years). No neuropathological changes were found in either the SCN or pineal gland in healthy controls or MSA cases. Nine PD cases had Lewy pathology in the SCN, and only 2 PD cases had Lewy pathology in the pineal gland. All PSP cases showed inclusions in the SCN, but no PSP cases had pathology in the pineal gland.

Conclusions and Relevance

Disease-related neuropathological changes were found in the SCN but not in the pineal gland in PD and PSP, while both structures were preserved in MSA, reflecting different pathophysiological mechanisms that may have important therapeutic implications.

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