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In Alzheimer's disease (AD), different types of neurons and different brain areas show differential patterns of vulnerability towards neurofibrillary degeneration, which provides the basis for a highly predictive profile of disease progression throughout the brain that now is widely accepted for neuropathological staging. In previous studies we could demonstrate that in AD cortical and subcortical neurons are constantly less frequently affected by neurofibrillary degeneration if they are enwrapped by a specialized form of the hyaluronan-based extracellular matrix (ECM), the so called 'perineuronal net' (PN). PNs are basically composed of large aggregating chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans connected to a hyaluronan backbone, stabilized by link proteins and cross-linked via tenascin-R (TN-R). Under experimental conditions in mice, PN-ensheathed neurons are better protected against iron-induced neurodegeneration than neurons without PN. Still, it remains unclear whether these neuroprotective effects are directly mediated by the PNs or are associated with some other mechanism in these neurons unrelated to PNs. To identify molecular components that essentially mediate the neuroprotective aspect on PN-ensheathed neurons, we comparatively analysed neuronal degeneration induced by a single injection of FeCl3 on four different mice knockout strains, each being deficient for a different component of PNs. Aggrecan, link protein and TN-R were identified to be essential for the neuroprotective properties of PN, whereas the contribution of brevican was negligible. Our findings indicate that the protection of PN-ensheathed neurons is directly mediated by the net structure and that both the high negative charge and the correct interaction of net components are essential for their neuroprotective function.


A Suttkus, S Rohn, S Weigel, P Glöckner, T Arendt, M Morawski. Aggrecan, link protein and tenascin-R are essential components of the perineuronal net to protect neurons against iron-induced oxidative stress. Cell death & disease. 2014;5:e1119

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PMID: 24625978

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