Pituitary adenylate cyclase–activating polypeptide is reduced in Alzheimer disease

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There is growing evidence that pituitary adenylate cyclase–activating polypeptide (PACAP) is associated with Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology in animal models, but human studies are needed.


We studied the brains of patients with pathologically confirmed late-onset AD and age-matched cognitively normal (CN) subjects to investigate the expression of PACAP messenger RNA (34 AD and 14 CN) and protein (12 AD and 11 CN) in a case-control study.


We report that PACAP levels are reduced in multiple brain regions, including the entorhinal cortex, the middle temporal gyrus, the superior frontal gyrus, and the primary visual cortex. This reduction is correlated with higher amyloid burden (CERAD plaque density) in the entorhinal cortex and superior frontal gyrus but not in the primary visual cortex, a region spared in most cases of AD. PACAP expression is lower in advanced Braak stages (V and VI) than in moderate stages (III and IV). Increased PACAP levels are associated with decreased scores on the Dementia Rating Scale, a global cognitive measure. Finally, CSF levels paralleled brain levels in AD but not in Parkinson dementia or frontotemporal dementia brains.


The close relationship between PACAP reduction and the severity of AD pathology suggests that downregulation of PACAP may contribute to AD pathogenesis.

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