Based on radioligand binding studies, it has long been assumed that the neurochemical pathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD) does not involve widespread changes in post-synaptic neurotransmitter function. However, more recent studies suggest that receptor function in AD may be compromised due to disrupted post-receptor signal transduction, in particular that mediated by the G-protein regulated phosphoinositide hydrolysis and adenylate cyclase (AC) pathways. The phosphoinositide hydrolysis pathway has been shown to be altered at a number of levels in AD post-mortem brains, including impaired agonist and G-protein regulation of phospholipase C, decreased protein kinase C (PKC) levels and activity, and a reduced number of receptor sites for the second messenger, Ins(1,4,5)P3. Of these, loss of Ins(1,4,5)P3 receptors and PKC in the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus correlates with AD-related neurofibrillary changes, as staged according to Braak's protocol. Disregulation of the phosphoinositide hydrolysis pathway may therefore have consequences for the progression of AD pathology. In contrast to the extensive pattern of disruption seen with the phosphoinositide hydrolysis pathway, changes to AC signalling in AD appear more circumscribed. Disruptions include a lesion at the level of Gs-protein stimulation of AC and, at least in the hippocampus, reduced enzyme activities in response to forskolin stimulation. Of these, the latter change has been shown to precede neurofibrillary changes. Apart from a loss of calcium/calmodulin sensitive AC isoforms, other components of this signalling pathway, including G-protein levels, Gi-protein mediated inhibition and protein kinase A levels and activity, remain relatively preserved in the disorder.

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