skip to main content


Title: Amyloid structure exhibits polymorphism on multiple length scales in human brain tissue

Although aggregation of Aβ amyloid fibrils into plaques in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer's Disease (AD), the correlation between amyloid burden and severity of symptoms is weak. One possible reason is that amyloid fibrils are structurally polymorphic and different polymorphs may contribute differentially to disease. However, the occurrence and distribution of amyloid polymorphisms in human brain is poorly documented. Here we seek to fill this knowledge gap by using X-ray microdiffraction of histological sections of human tissue to map the abundance, orientation and structural heterogeneities of amyloid within individual plaques; among proximal plaques and in subjects with distinct clinical histories. A 5 µ x-ray beam was used to generate diffraction data with each pattern arising from a scattering volume of only ~ 450 µ3 , making possible collection of dozens to hundreds of diffraction patterns from a single amyloid plaque. X-ray scattering from these samples exhibited all the properties expected for scattering from amyloid. Amyloid distribution was mapped using the intensity of its signature 4.7 Å reflection which also provided information on the orientation of amyloid fibrils across plaques. Margins of plaques exhibited a greater degree of orientation than cores and orientation around blood vessels frequently appeared tangential.more » Variation in the structure of Aβ fibrils is reflected in the shape of the 4.7 Å peak which usually appears as a doublet. Variations in this peak correspond to differences between the structure of amyloid within cores of plaques and at their periphery. Examination of tissue from a mismatch case - an individual with high plaque burden but no overt signs of dementia at time of death - revealed a diversity of structure and spatial distribution of amyloid that is distinct from typical AD cases. As a result, we demonstrate the existence of structural polymorphisms among amyloid within and among plaques of a single individual and suggest the existence of distinct differences in the organization of amyloid in subjects with different clinical presentations.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [3] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [1]
  1. Northeastern Univ., Boston, MA (United States)
  2. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA (United States)
  3. Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 2045-2322
Nature Publishing Group
Research Org:
Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22). Scientific User Facilities Division; National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Country of Publication:
United States
60 APPLIED LIFE SCIENCES; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; diseases of the nervous system; molecular biophysics
OSTI Identifier: