Widespread severe cerebral elevations of haptoglobin and haemopexin in sporadic Alzheimer's disease: Evidence for a pervasive microvasculopathy

Sasha A Philbert, Jingshu Xu, Richard D Unwin, Andrew W Dowsey, Garth J S Cooper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Sporadic Alzheimer's disease (sAD) is the commonest cause of age-related neurodegeneration but there are no available treatments with demonstrated disease-modifying actions. It is therefore relevant to study hitherto-unknown aspects of brain structure and function to seek new disease-related mechanisms that might be targeted by novel disease-modifying interventions. During hypothesis-generating proteomic investigations in a case-control study of sAD, we observed widespread elevations of haptoglobin and haemopexin in all six brain-regions studied, which together represent much of the brain. Measured perturbations were significant, with the posterior probability of upregulation generally >95% and haptoglobin doubling in expression levels on average across deep brain structures (hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and cingulate gyrus) as well as sensory and motor cortices, and cerebellum. Haptoglobin and haemopexin are often regarded as circulating proteins whose main functions are to bind, respectively, the strongly pro-inflammatory extracellular haemoglobin and haeme molecules that form following haemolysis, thereby promoting their clearance and suppressing damage they might otherwise cause, for example, acute kidney injury. To our knowledge, elevations in neither cerebral haptoglobin nor haemopexin have previously been linked to the pathogenesis of sAD. Post-mortem examination of these cases showed no signs of macroscopic cerebral haemorrhage. These findings demonstrate pervasive cerebral elevation of haptoglobin and haemopexin, consistent with low-level intracerebral leakage of haemoglobin and consequent haeme formation throughout sAD brain. They point to a widespread underlying microvasculopathy that facilitates erythrocyte leakage, thereby triggering elevated tissue-free haemoglobin and driving the measured elevations in haptoglobin and haemopexin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Early online date1 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021


  • Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease
  • Brain glucose
  • Cerebral haptoglobinv
  • Cerebral haemoglobin
  • Cerebral microvasculopathy
  • Blood-brain barrier leakage


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