Cell loss in the motor and cingulate cortex correlates with symptomatology in Huntington's disease.
The primary site of pathology in Huntington's disease (HD) is the caudate nucleus. However, cortical changes are also commonly reported. While many researchers have studied pathology in the frontal lobe, little attention has been paid to posterior cortical regions. The aim of this study is to examine pathology in the parietal lobe in patients with HD as it has specific projections to the caudate nucleus. Post-mortem brain tissue was obtained from HD patients with both a positive family history and clinicopathological diagnosis (n = 6; Vonsattel grades 2-4) as well as from neurologically normal controls (n = 6). The angular gyrus of the parietal lobe was sampled and cellular quantification of SMI-32 immunohistochemically detected pyramidal neurons performed. Cortical blocks were sectioned at 50 microns on a cryostat and stained immunohistochemically using antigen retrieval methods and peroxidase visualization. HD subjects had noticeable histological changes including smaller neurons and a disruption of cortical laminar pattern. Quantification using a point counting method to find the areal fraction of immunoreactive neurons revealed a severe loss of pyramidal neurons in the angular gyrus of HD subjects compared with controls (reduced on average to 55% of mean control values, P = 0.038 using the Mann-Whitney U-test). This striking cortical pathology suggests that HD may preferentially target posterior cortical regions, particularly the angular gyrus which has a significant projection to the caudate nucleus in primates.