A significant number of the cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain of the primate, but not the rodent brain contain the calcium binding protein calbindin-D28k (CB). Previous experiments in our laboratory have demonstrated a substantial age-related loss of CB from the human basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN). The present study investigated the possible age-related loss of CB from the BFCN in a non-human primate species, the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). Quantitative analysis of matching sections as well as unbiased stereological determination of neuronal number were used in 16 adult marmosets ranging in age between 2 and 15 years. No significant changes were observed in the number of choline acetyltransferase-positive BFCN when a group of young animals (≤4 years) was compared with a 6-8-year-old group and a 9-15-year-old group. Similarly, no age-related changes were observed in Nissl-stained magnocellular basal forebrain (putatively cholinergic) neurons. In contrast, the BFCN of the two older groups of animals displayed a significant loss of CB. The age-related loss of CB occurred in all sectors of the BFCN, but was greatest in the anterior sector of this cell group. The CB loss was neurochemically specific since the BFCN in the older groups of animals continued to express other markers such as high and low affinity neurotrophin receptors. The age-related loss of CB from the marmoset BFCN was also regionally selective as CB positive neurons in other structures, such as the cerebral cortex and the striatum displayed no apparent age-related changes. These results indicate that the marmoset BFCN display a significant and selective age-related loss of CB reminiscent of that observed in the human. Therefore, the common marmoset represents an appropriate animal model in which the consequences of BFCN CB loss can be investigated in depth. Loss of CB from the aged BFCN is likely to reduce the capacity of these neurons to buffer intracellular calcium and to leave them vulnerable to insults which can result in increased calcium levels. The vulnerability of the CB-negative BFCN in the aged marmoset to various insults which disturb calcium homeostasis remains to be investigated.
- Calcium binding protein
- Choline acetyltransferase
- Nerve growth factor receptor
- Unbiased stereological cell counting
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