Activation of Caspase-8 in the Alzheimer's Disease Brain

Document Type


Publication Date





Recent studies support the activation of apoptotic pathways in the Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain. Neurons committed to apoptosis may do so by either activation of a receptor-mediated pathway employing caspase-8 or through an alternative mitochondrial pathway involving oxidative stress. In the present study, the role of caspase-8 in the AD brain was examined by designing a caspase-cleavage site-directed antibody to one of the active fragments of caspase-8. In vitro analysis with this antibody, termed CASP-8p18, demonstrated that it recognized the active 18-kDa fragment of caspase-8 but not the precursor protein. In vivo immunohistochemical analysis using hippocampal tissue sections from AD or aged-matched control brains demonstrated CASP-8p18 immunolabeling of neurons in all AD cases, whereas little staining was observed in controls. These results were confirmed using a commercially available antibody that, like the CASP-8p18 antibody reacts only with the 18-kDa fragment of caspase-8 and not full-length caspase-8. As with CASP-8p18 antibody, the commercial antibody-labeled neurons in all AD cases, while showing a relative paucity of staining in representative control cases. Labeling of CASP-8p18 within tangle-bearing neurons was observed in double-labeling studies with AT8 or PHF-1, both markers for neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). In addition, using a caspase-cleavage site-directed antibody that recognizes cleavage products of caspase-3 showed colocalization of this antibody with the CASP-8p18 antibody within NFTs. These results suggest a role for caspase-8 and the receptor-mediated apoptotic pathway as a mechanism leading to the activation of caspase-3 within neurons of the AD brain.