Severe histomorphological alterations in post-mortem olfactory glomeruli in Alzheimer's disease

G. Son, H.W.M. Steinbusch, C. Lopez-Iglesias, C. Moon*, A. Jahanshahi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most prevalent form of dementia. Key AD symptoms include memory and cognitive decline; however, comorbid symptoms such as depression and sensory-perceptual dysfunction are often reported. Among these, a deterioration of olfactory sensation is observed in approximately 90% of AD patients. However, the precise pathophysiological basis underlying olfactory deficits because of AD remains elusive. The olfactory glomeruli in the olfactory bulb (OB) receive sensory information in the olfactory processing pathway. Maintaining the structural and functional integrity of the olfactory glomerulus is critical to olfactory signalling. Herein, we conducted an in-depth histopathological assessment to reveal detailed structural alterations in the olfactory glomeruli in AD patients. Fresh frozen post-mortem OB specimens obtained from six AD patients and seven healthy age-matched individuals were examined. We used combined immunohistochemistry and stereology to assess the gross morphology and histological alterations, such as those in the expression of A beta protein, microglia, and neurotransmitters in the OB. Electron microscopy was employed to study the ultrastructural features in the glomeruli. Significant accumulation of A beta, morphologic damage, altered neurotransmitter levels, and microgliosis in the olfactory glomeruli of AD patients suggests that glomerular damage could affect olfactory function. Moreover, greater neurodegeneration was observed in the ventral olfactory glomeruli of AD patients. The synaptic ultrastructure revealed distorted postsynaptic densities and a decline in presynaptic vesicles in AD specimens. These findings show that the primary olfactory pathway is affected by the pathogenesis of AD, and may provide clues to identifying the mechanism involved in olfactory dysfunction in AD.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13033
Number of pages16
JournalBrain Pathology
Issue number2
Early online date27 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • morphology
  • olfactory bulb
  • post-mortem histology
  • ultrastructure
  • BULB

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