Jorge, Natasha Andressa Nogueira; Uwe Ueberham; Mara Knobloch; Peter F. Stadler; Jorg Fallman and Thomas Arendt

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder with typical neuropathological hallmarks, such as neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, preferentially found at layers III and V. The distribution of both hallmarks provides the basis for the staging of AD, following a hierarchical pattern throughout the cerebral cortex. To unravel the background of this layer-specific vulnerability, we evaluated differential gene expression of supragranular and infragranular layers and subcortical white matter in both healthy controls and AD patients. We identified AD-associated layer-specific differences involving protein-coding and non-coding sequences, most of those present in the subcortical white matter, thus indicating a critical role for long axons and oligodendrocytes in AD pathomechanism. In addition, GO analysis identified networks containing synaptic vesicle transport, vesicle exocytosis and regulation of neurotransmitter levels. Numerous AD-associated layer-specifically expressed genes were previously reported to undergo layer-specific switches in recent hominid brain evolution between layers V and III, i.e., those layers that are most vulnerable to AD pathology. Against the background of our previous finding of accelerated evolution of AD-specific gene expression, here we suggest a critical role in AD pathomechanism for this phylogenetic layer-specific adaptation of gene expression, which is most prominently seen in the white matter compartment.