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Loss with ageing but preservation of frontal cortical capillary pericytes in post-stroke dementia, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ren Ding, Dr Yoshiki HaseORCiD, Matthew Burke, Vincent Foster, William Stevenson, Dr Tuomo Polvikoski, Professor Raj KalariaORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2021, The Author(s). Cerebral pericytes are an integral component of the neurovascular unit, which governs the blood–brain barrier. There is paucity of knowledge on cortical pericytes across different dementias. We quantified cortical pericytes in capillaries in 124 post-mortem brains from subjects with post-stroke dementia (PSD), vascular dementia (VaD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and AD-VaD (Mixed) and, post-stroke non-demented (PSND) stroke survivors as well as normal ageing controls. Collagen 4 (COL4)-positive nucleated pericyte soma were identified as protrusions on capillaries of the frontal cortex. The COL4-positive somata or nodule-like cell bodies were also verified by platelet derived growth factor receptor-β (PDGFR-β) immunohistochemistry. The mean (± SEM) pericyte somata in frontal cortical capillaries in normal young controls (46–65 years of age) was estimated as 5.2 ± 0.2 per mm capillary length. This number was reduced by 45% in older controls (> 78 years) to 2.9 ± 0.1 per mm capillary length (P < 0.001). We further found that the numbers of pericyte cell bodies per COL4 mm2 area or per mm capillary length were not decreased but rather preserved or increased in PSD, AD and Mixed dementia groups compared to similar age older controls (P < 0.01). Consistent with this, we noted that capillary length densities identified by the endothelial marker glucose transporter 1 or COL4 were not different across the dementias compared to older controls. There was a negative correlation with age (P < 0.001) suggesting fewer pericyte somata in older age, although the % COL4 immunoreactive capillary area was increased in older controls compared to young controls. Using a proven reliable method to quantify COL4-positive nucleated pericytes, our observations demonstrate ageing related loss but mostly preserved pericytes in the frontal cortex of vascular and AD dementias. We suggest there is differential regulation of capillary pericytes in the frontal lobe between the cortex and white matter in ageing-related dementias.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ding R, Hase Y, Burke M, Foster V, Stevenson W, Polvikoski T, Kalaria RN

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Acta Neuropathologica Communications

Year: 2021

Volume: 9

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 02/08/2021

Acceptance date: 16/07/2021

Date deposited: 17/08/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2051-5960

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s40478-021-01230-6


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Funder referenceFunder name
G0500247Medical Research Council (MRC)