Structural study of Purkinje cell axonal torpedoes in essential tremor

Elan D. Louis; Hong Yi; Cordelia Erickson-Davis; Jean Paul Vonsattel; Phyllis L. Faust

Structural study of Purkinje cell axonal torpedoes in essential tremor
Louis, Elan D.
Yi, Hong
Erickson-Davis, Cordelia
Vonsattel, Jean Paul
Faust, Phyllis L.
Center for Parkinson's Disease and Other Movement Disorders
Sergievsky Center
Pathology and Cell Biology
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Neuroscience letters
Essential tremor (ET) is one of the most common neurological diseases. A basic understanding of its neuropathology is now emerging. Aside from Purkinje cell loss, a prominent finding is an abundance of torpedoes (rounded swellings of Purkinje cell axons). Such swellings often result from the mis-accumulation of cell constituents. Identifying the basic nature of these accumulations is an important step in understanding the underlying disease process. Torpedoes, only recently identified in ET, have not yet been characterized ultrastructurally. Light and electron microscopy were used to characterize the structural constituents of torpedoes in ET. Formalin-fixed cerebellar cortical tissue from four prospectively collected ET brains was sectioned and immunostained with a monoclonal phosphorylated neurofilament antibody (SMI-31, Covance, Emeryville, CA). Using additional sections from three ET brains, torpedoes were assessed using electron microscopy. Immunoreactivity for phosphorylated neurofilament protein revealed clear labeling of torpedoes in each case. Torpedoes were strongly immunoreactive; in many instances, two or more torpedoes were noted in close proximity to one another. On electron microscopy, torpedoes were packed with randomly arranged 10–12 nm neurofilaments. Mitochondria and smooth endoplasmic reticulum were abundant as well, particularly at the periphery of the torpedo. We demonstrated that the torpedoes in ET represent the mis-accumulation of disorganized neurofilaments and other organelles. It is not known where in the pathogenic cascade these accumulations occur (i.e., whether these accumulations are the primary event or a secondary/downstream event) and this deserves further study.
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Elan D. Louis, Hong Yi, Cordelia Erickson-Davis, Jean Paul Vonsattel, Phyllis L. Faust, 2009, Structural study of Purkinje cell axonal torpedoes in essential tremor, Columbia University Academic Commons, http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:9906.

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