Brain tissue taken at necropsy from five cases of Down's syndrome and six controls was analysed for changes in neurotransmitter markers. Concentrations of noradrenaline (NA), dopamine (DA) and its major metabolite homovanillic acid (HVA), 5-hydroxytryptamine (5HT) and its metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5HIAA) were determined by means of HPLC, whilst choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) was measured by a radiochemical technique. Significant reductions in NA, 5HT and ChAT were found in most cortical and subcortical regions of the Down's syndrome tissue investigated. The neuropathological lesions were assessed using a fluorescent stain for neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. These were present to varying extents in every Down's syndrome case except the youngest but were not found in control tissue of comparable age. The results indicate profound transmitter deficits and neuropathological abnormalities in adult patients with Down's syndrome, which closely resemble those of Alzheimer's disease.
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