Certain neuronal populations, including basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN) and noradrenergic neurons of the locus coeruleus (LC), are selectively vulnerable to pathology and loss early in the course of aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Human BFCN show substantial loss of the calcium-binding protein (CBP), calbindin-D (CB), during normal aging, which is associated with formation of neurofibrillary tangles and BFCN loss in AD. Here we determined if, similar to the BFCN, LC neurons contain CB or the other 2 ubiquitous CBPs parvalbumin and calretinin, and whether these proteins display an age-related loss from LC neurons. Immunostaining for CBP and tyrosine hydroxylase, a marker of catecholaminergic neurons, was used in sections from the LC of young and aged human brains. Parvalbumin and calretinin immunoreactivities were completely absent from human LC neurons. A subpopulation of LC neurons (~10%) contained CB immunoreactivity. Quantitative analysis revealed no age-related loss of CB from LC neurons. Thus, unlike the BFCN, age-related loss of CB does not figure prominently in the selective vulnerability of LC neurons to degeneration in AD.
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