The role of novel chitin-like polysaccharides in Alzheimer disease

Rudy J. Castellani*, George Perry, Mark A. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


While controversy over the role of carbohydrates in amyloidosis has existed since the initial recognition of amyloid, current understanding of the role of polysaccharides in the pathogenesis of amyloid deposition of Alzheimer disease and other amyloidoses is limited to studies of glycoconjugates such as heparan sulfate proteglycan. We hypothesized that polysaccharides may play a broader role in light of 1) the impaired glucose utilization in Alzheimer disease; 2) the demonstration of amylose in the Alzheimer disease brain; 3) the role of amyloid in Alzheimer disease pathogenesis. Specifically, as with glucose polymers (amyloid), we wanted to explore whether glucosamine polymers such as chitin were being synthesized and deposited as a result of impaired glucose utilization and aberrant hexosamine pathway activation. To this end, using calcofluor histochemistry, we recently demonstrated that amyloid plaques and blood vessels affected by amyloid angiopathy in subjects with sporadic and familial Alzheimer disease elicit chitin-type characteristics. Since chitin is a highly insoluble molecule and a substrate for glycan-protein interactions, chitin-like polysaccharides within the Alzheimer disease brain could provide a scaffolding for amyloid-β deposition. As such, glucosamine may facilitate the process of amyloidosis, and/or provide neuroprotection in the Alzheimer disease brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-274
Number of pages6
JournalNeurotoxicity Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Amyloid-β
  • Amyloidoses
  • Calcofluor
  • Chitin
  • Glucosamine
  • Plaques

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Toxicology


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