Depression is a feature of both Lewy body disorders and multiple system atrophy (MSA). Since serotonergic neurons of the rostral raphe have been implicated in depression, we sought to determine whether there is a differential involvement of these neurons in cases with clinically diagnosed dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) or MSA. We studied the brainstem obtained at autopsy from fourteen patients with diagnosis of DLB and pathological limbic or neocortical stage Lewy body disease, 13 patients with clinical and neuropathological diagnosis of MSA, and 12 controls with no history of neurologic disease. The clinical features of these patients were analyzed retrospectively by reviewing their medical records. Serial sections were immunostained for tryptophan hydroxylase (TrOH) and α-synuclein and cell counts were performed in the dorsal raphe (DR), median raphe (MR) and medullary raphe nuclei. There was loss of serotonergic cells in both the DR and MR in DLB compared to control cases: For the DR, the number of cells/section were 53 ± 6 in DLB versus 159 ± 13 (P < 0.001) respectively, and for the MR 70 ± 11 in DLB versus 173 ± 23 (P < 0.001) respectively. In contrast, these cells were relatively preserved in MSA. The caudal raphe groups were affected both in MSA and in DLB. There is a differential involvement of raphe neurons in DLB and MSA. Although loss of rostral raphe neurons may contribute to depression in DLB, this appears to be less likely in MSA. Factors other than the neurochemical phenotype determine neuronal vulnerability in MSA.
- Dorsal raphe
- Glial cytoplasmic inclusions
- Median raphe
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Clinical Neurology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience