Myeloid dendritic cells are decreased in peripheral blood of Alzheimer's disease patients in association with disease progression and severity of depressive symptoms

Antonio Ciaramella, Francesca Salani, Federica Bizzoni, Maria Donata Orfei, Carlo Caltagirone, Gianfranco Spalletta, Paola Bossù

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Dendritic cells (DCs) are major orchestrators of immune responses and inflammation. They are migratory cells, which may play a role in Alzheimer's disease (AD), as suggested by prior in vitro studies. With the intent to investigate the clinical relevance of DC modifications in vivo, the present study was aimed to evaluate the levels of blood DCs in AD patients, in relation to the progression of the disease, the severity of its symptoms, and the treatment with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs), a class of drugs used to improve cognitive functioningin people with dementia. Methods: The two main subpopulations of immature blood DCs, namely myeloid (mDCs) and plasmacytoid (pDCs) cells, were evaluated by flow cytometry analysis in 106 AD patients, in comparison with the same cells from 65 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and 73 healthy control subjects (HC). The relationship between blood DC levels and symptom severity was also assessed in AD patients, and their blood DC frequency was considered both in the absence or presence of treatment with AChEIs. Results: A significant depletion in blood mDCs was observed in AD patients, as compared to HC and MCI subjects. At variance, pDC levels were comparable among the three groups of subjects. The mDC decrease was evident only after the emergence of AD clinical symptoms, as confirmed by the follow-up analysis of a subgroup of MCI subjects who exhibited a significant decline in mDCs after their conversion to AD. Notably, the mDC decline was inversely correlated in AD patients with the frequency and severity of depressive symptoms. Eventually, the mDC depletion was not observable in patients treated with AChEIs. Conclusions: Our results provide the first evidence that blood mDC levels are dysregulated in AD. This phenomenon appears mainly linked to AD progression, associated with stronger severity of AD-related symptoms, and influenced by AChEI treatment. Taken all together, these data suggest that blood mDCs may serve as a cell source to test disease-induced and treatment-related changes and support the innovative notion that DCs play a role in AD, as ultimate evidence of the immune system participation in disease progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 25 2016


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Myeloid dendritic cells
  • Plasmacytoid dendritic cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • Immunology


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