Pick’s disease, also known as Pick disease and PiD, is a rare neurodegenerative disease. While the term Pick's disease was once used to represent a specific group of clinical syndromes with symptoms attributable to frontal and temporal lobe dysfunction, it is now used (at least among professionals in the field) to mean a specific pathology that is just one of the causes of this clinical syndrome (now known as frontotemporal lobar degeneration). Some people still use the term Pick's disease to mean the clinical syndrome of frontotemporal lobar degeneration but this has previously led to confusion among both professionals and patients and so its use should be restricted to the specific pathological subtype described below.
Numerous different areas of the brain are affected by PiD, but the specific areas that are affected allow for differentiation between PiD and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The aforementioned Pick bodies are almost always found in several different places in the brain, including the dentate gyrus, the pyramidial cells of the CA1 sector and subiculum of the hippocampus, and the neocortex as well as a plurality of other nuclei. Interestingly, it is the location within the different layers of the brain as well as the anatomical location that demonstrates some of the unique features of PiD. A striking feature is that in the neocortex the Pick bodies are located in the II and IV layers of the cortex, which send neurons within the cortex and to thalamic synapses, respectively. While layers III and V have very few if any Pick bodies they show extreme neuronal loss that can, in some cases, be so severe as to leave a void in the brain. altogether. Other regions that are involved include the caudate, which is severely affected, the dorsomedial region of the putamen, the globus pallidus, and locus cerulus . The hypothalamic lateral tuberal nucleus is also very severely affected. The cerebellar elements that are important in receiving input, including the mossy fibers as well as the monodendritic brush cells in the granule cell layer, and generating output signals, most notably the dentate nucleus, are stricken with lots of tau protein inclusions. Strangely, the substantia nigra is most often uninvolved or only mildly involved, but cases of extreme degeneration do exist .
PiD has several unique biochemical characteristics that allow for unique identification of Pick’s disease as opposed to other pathological subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The most striking of these is that this disease, which has tau protein tangles present in many affected neurons, contains only one or as many as two of the six different isoforms of the tau protein. All of these isoforms result from alternative splicing of the same gene. Pick bodies typically have the 3R isoform of tau proteins as not only the most abundant form but the only form of this protein, but a recent study has shown that a much greater number of different tau isoforms including 4R and mixed 3R/4R can be present in the Pick bodies. Not only do these tangles have the 3R tau protein predominately but they are also characteristically shaped with a round body and there is often an indentation in the area that faces the nucleus of the cell. The Pick bodies are also able to be labeled by N-terminal amyloid precursor protein segment, hyperphosphorylated tau, ubiquitin, Alz-50, neurofiliment proteins, clathrin, synaptophysin and neuronal surface glycoside (A2B5) specific stains. Moreover βII tubulin proteins are also suspected in playing a role in the formation of phosphor-tau aggregates that are seen in PiD as well as AD.