Differential protein expression in the hippocampi of resilient individuals identified by digital spatial profiling

Jamie M. Walker, Shiva Kazempour Dehkordi, Anna Fracassi, Alison Vanschoiack, Anna Pavenko, Giulio Taglialatela, Randall Woltjer, Timothy E. Richardson, Habil Zare, Miranda E. Orr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Clinical symptoms correlate with underlying neurodegenerative changes in the vast majority of people. However, an intriguing group of individuals demonstrate neuropathologic changes consistent with Alzheimer disease (AD) yet remain cognitively normal (termed “resilient”). Previous studies have reported less overall neuronal loss, less gliosis, and fewer comorbidities in these individuals. Herein, NanoString GeoMx™ Digital Spatial Profiler (DSP) technology was utilized to investigate protein expression differences comparing individuals with dementia and AD neuropathologic change to resilient individuals. DSP allows for spatial analysis of protein expression in multiple regions of interest (ROIs) on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections. ROIs in this analysis were hippocampal neurofibrillary tangle (NFT)-bearing neurons, non-NFT-bearing neurons, and their immediate neuronal microenvironments. Analyses of 86 proteins associated with CNS cell-typing or known neurodegenerative changes in 168 ROIs from 14 individuals identified 11 proteins displaying differential expression in NFT-bearing neurons of the resilient when compared to the demented (including APP, IDH1, CD68, GFAP, SYP and Histone H3). In addition, IDH1, CD68, and SYP were differentially expressed in the environment of NFT-bearing neurons when comparing resilient to demented. IDH1 (which is upregulated under energetic and oxidative stress) and PINK1 (which is upregulated in response to mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress) both displayed lower expression in the environment of NFT-bearing neurons in the resilient. Therefore, the resilient display less evidence of energetic and oxidative stress. Synaptophysin (SYP) was increased in the resilient, which likely indicates better maintenance of synapses and synaptic connections. Furthermore, neurofilament light chain (NEFL) and ubiquitin c-terminal hydrolase (Park5) were higher in the resilient in the environment of NFTs. These differences all suggest healthier intact axons, dendrites and synapses in the resilient. In conclusion, resilient individuals display protein expression patterns suggestive of an environment containing less energetic and oxidative stress, which in turn results in maintenance of neurons and their synaptic connections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Digital spatial profiling (DSP)
  • Hippocampus
  • Neurofibrillary tangles
  • Resilient
  • Senescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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