Both low and high platelet MAO-B (pMAO-B) activity is considered an indicator of increased vulnerability in psychopathology. How the activity of this peripheral enzyme can be linked with the sophisticated functions of the central nervous system (CNS) is not clear; in man, evidence exists that the genetic mechanisms determining the size or capacity of the central serotonin system are common to platelet and brain MAO. In the present study pMAO-B activity was evaluated in demented patients suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD), late-onset Alzheimer's disease (SDAT), vascular dementia (VD), and controls. In these dementia categories, the relationship between pMAO-B activity and clinical features, and between pMAO-B activity and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) monoamine metabolites (3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl-glycol, MHPG; 5-hydroxy-indoleacetic acid, 5-HIAA; homovanillic acid, HVA) was also investigated. pMAO-B activity was significantly higher in SDAT patients, compared to controls and AD. Age, as covariate, failed to show any significant effect, and no association was found between pMAO-B activity and CSF monoamine metabolites. The correlation analysis between pMAO-B and neuropsychological scores showed a highly significant positive relationship with GBS-emotional impairment (N = 40, r = 0.72, p < 0.01) in the SDAT group. This result suggests the importance of platelet MAO-B activity as biological marker also in old-age dementias, namely senile dementia of Alzheimer type, where the increased activity of this enzyme might constitute a marker for vulnerability toward behavioural disturbance, i.e., emotional deterioration.
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