Cysteine string protein alpha accumulates with early pre-synaptic dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease

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In Alzheimer's disease, synapse loss causes memory and cognitive impairment. However, the mechanisms underlying synaptic degeneration in Alzheimer's disease are not well understood. In the hippocampus, alterations in the level of cysteine string protein alpha, a molecular co-chaperone at the pre-synaptic terminal, occur prior to reductions in synaptophysin, suggesting that it is a very sensitive marker of synapse degeneration in Alzheimer's. Here, we identify putative extracellular accumulations of cysteine string alpha protein, which are proximal to beta-amyloid deposits in post-mortem human Alzheimer's brain and in the brain of a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Cysteine string protein alpha, at least some of which is phosphorylated at serine 10, accumulates near the core of beta-amyloid deposits and does not co-localize with hyperphosphorylated tau, dystrophic neurites or glial cells. Using super-resolution microscopy and array tomography, cysteine string protein alpha was found to accumulate to a greater extent than other pre-synaptic proteins and at a comparatively great distance from the plaque core. This indicates that cysteine string protein alpha is most sensitive to being released from pre-synapses at low concentrations of beta-amyloid oligomers. Cysteine string protein alpha accumulations were also evident in other neurodegenerative diseases, including some fronto-temporal lobar dementias and Lewy body diseases, but only in the presence of amyloid plaques. Our findings are consistent with suggestions that pre-synapses are affected early in Alzheimer's disease, and they demonstrate that cysteine string protein alpha is a more sensitive marker for early pre-synaptic dysfunction than traditional synaptic markers. We suggest that cysteine string protein alpha should be used as a pathological marker for early synaptic disruption caused by beta-amyloid.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfcac192
Pages (from-to)fcac192
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2022


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