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Decreased MT1 melatonin receptor expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus in aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Research group Swaab
Publication year 2006
Published in Neurobiology of Aging
Authors Y.H. Wu, J.N. Zhou, J. van Heerikhuize, R. Jockers, D.F. Swaab

The pineal hormone melatonin is involved in the regulation of circadian rhythms and feeds back to the central biological clock, the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) via melatonin receptors. Supplementary melatonin is considered to be a potential treatment for aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related circadian disorders. Here we investigated by immunocytochemistry the alterations of the MT1 melatonin receptor, the neuropeptides vasopressin (AVP) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) in the SCN during aging and AD. We found that the number and density of AVP/VIP-expressing neurons in the SCN did not change, but the number and density of MT1-expressing neurons in the SCN were decreased in aged controls compared to young controls. Furthermore, both MT1-expressing neurons and AVP/VIP-expressing neurons were strongly diminished in the last neuropathological stages of AD (Braak stages V-VI), but not in the earliest stages (Braak stages I-II), compared to aged controls (Braak stage 0). Our study suggests that the MT1-mediated effects of melatonin on the SCN are disturbed during aging and even more so in late stage AD, which may contribute to the clinical circadian disorders and to the efficacy of therapeutic melatonin administration under these conditions.

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