Early neuropathological Alzheimer's changes in aged individuals are accompanied by decreased cerebrospinal fluid melatonin levels

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Neuropathology is the most reliable criterion for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease (AD). A well-established system for staging the spread of neuropathological changes in AD is available. The clinical use of a biomarker that reflects the neuropathological change occurring in brain tissue has not yet been established. Melatonin is a product that plays not only a major role in the regulation of the circadian rhythms but may also exert neuroprotective effects in AD. Melatonin levels were determined in ventricular postmortem cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 121 subjects. Braak staging and a modified Braak staging for cortex (MBSC) were used to evaluate the severity of AD neuropathology. The present study revealed that not only the Braak stages of AD, but also the MBSC were negatively correlated with CSF melatonin levels. By using MBSC, we now demonstrate for the first time that CSF melatonin levels were significantly decreased in the aged individuals with early neuropathological changes in the temporal cortex, where the AD process starts. Those individuals that did not have any neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) or neuritic plaque (NP) in the temporal cortex, had much higher melatonin levels (287 ± 68 and 280 ± 64 pg/mL, respectively) than those individuals that had a few NFTs and NPs (82 ± 4 and 39 ± 8 pg/mL, respectively) in the temporal cortex. These results suggest that the decrease in CSF melatonin levels may be an early event in the development of AD possibly occurring even before the clinical symptoms.

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