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Amyloid-beta provides an alternative mechanism for Alzheimer's Disease and Down Syndrome

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Upregulation of neprilysin (NEP) to reduce Aβ accumulation in the brain is a promising strategy for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease (AD). This report describes the design and synthesis of a quenched fluorogenic peptide substrate qf-Aβ(12-16)AAC (with the sequence VHHQKAAC), which has a fluorophore, Alexa-350, linked to the side-chain of its C-terminal cysteine and a quencher, Dabcyl, linked to its N-terminus. This peptide emitted strong fluorescence upon cleavage. Our results showed that qf-Aβ(12-16)AAC is more sensitive to NEP than the previously reported peptide substrates, so that concentrations of NEP as low as 0.03 nM could be detected at peptide concentration of 2 μM. Moreover, qf-Aβ(12-16)AAC had superior enzymatic specificity for both NEP and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), but was inert with other Aβ-degrading enzymes. This peptide, used in conjunction with a previously reported peptide substrate qf-Aβ(1-7)C [which is sensitive to NEP and insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE)], could be used for high-throughput screening of compounds that only upregulate NEP. The experimental results of cell-based activity assays using both qf-Aβ(1-7)C and qf-Aβ(12-16)AAC as the substrates confirm that somatostatin treatment most likely upregulates IDE, but not NEP, in neuroblastoma cells.

Chen PT, Chen CL, Lin LT, et al. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(4):e0153360.

Epidemiological studies show that patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and individuals with a diabetes-independent elevation in blood glucose have an increased risk for developing dementia, specifically dementia due to Alzheimer's disease (AD). These observations suggest that abnormal glucose metabolism likely plays a role in some aspects of AD pathogenesis, leading us to investigate the link between aberrant glucose metabolism, T2DM, and AD in murine models. Here, we combined two techniques – glucose clamps and in vivo microdialysis – as a means to dynamically modulate blood glucose levels in awake, freely moving mice while measuring real-time changes in amyloid-β (Aβ), glucose, and lactate within the hippocampal interstitial fluid (ISF). In a murine model of AD, induction of acute hyperglycemia in young animals increased ISF Aβ production and ISF lactate, which serves as a marker of neuronal activity. These effects were exacerbated in aged AD mice with marked Aβ plaque pathology. Inward rectifying, ATP-sensitive potassium (K(ATP)) channels mediated the response to elevated glucose levels, as pharmacological manipulation of K(ATP) channels in the hippocampus altered both ISF A? levels and neuronal activity. Taken together, these results suggest that K(ATP) channel activation mediates the response of hippocampal neurons to hyperglycemia by coupling metabolism with neuronal activity and ISF Aβ levels.

Macauley SL, Stanley M, Caesar EE, et al. Hyperglycemia modulates extracellular amyloid-β concentrations and neuronal activity in vivo. J Clin Invest. 2015;125(6):2463-7.

High levels (μM) of beta amyloid (Aβ) oligomers are known to trigger neurotoxic effects, leading to synaptic impairment, behavioral deficits and apoptotic cell death. The hydrophobic C-terminal domain of Aβ, together with sequences critical for oligomer formation, is essential for this neurotoxicity. However, Aβ at low levels (pM-nM) has been shown to function as a positive neuromodulator and this activity resides in the hydrophilic N-terminal domain of Aβ. An N-terminal Aβ fragment (1-15/16), found in cerebrospinal fluid, was also shown to be a highly active neuromodulator and to reverse A?-induced impairments of long-term potentiation. Here, we show the impact of this N-terminal Aβ fragment and a shorter hexapeptide core sequence in the Aβ fragment (Aβ: 10-15) to protect or reverse Aβ-induced neuronal toxicity, fear memory deficits and apoptotic death. The neuroprotective effects of the N-terminal Aβ fragment and Aβcore on Aβ-induced changes in mitochondrial function, oxidative stress and apoptotic neuronal death were demonstrated via mitochondrial membrane potential, live reactive oxygen species, DNA fragmentation and cell survival assays using a model neuroblastoma cell line (differentiated NG108-15) and mouse hippocampal neuron cultures. The protective action of the N-terminal Aβ fragment and A?core against spatial memory processing deficits in APP/PSEN1 (5XFAD) mice was demonstrated in contextual fear conditioning. Stabilized derivatives of the N-terminal Aβcore were also shown to be fully protective against Aβ-triggered oxidative stress. Together, these findings indicate an endogenous neuroprotective role for the N-terminal Aβ fragment, while active stabilized N-terminal Aβcore derivatives offer the potential for therapeutic application. 

Forest KH, Alfulaij N, Arora K, et al. Protection Against β-Amyloid Neurotoxicity by a Non-Toxic Endogenous N-terminal β-Amyloid Fragment and its Active Hexapeptide Core Sequence. J Neurochem. 2017;

BACKGROUND: The order and magnitude of pathologic processes in Alzheimer's disease are not well understood, partly because the disease develops over many years. Autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease has a predictable age at onset and provides an opportunity to determine the sequence and magnitude of pathologic changes that culminate in symptomatic disease.
METHODS: In this prospective, longitudinal study, we analyzed data from 128 participants who underwent baseline clinical and cognitive assessments, brain imaging, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood tests. We used the participant's age at baseline assessment and the parent's age at the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer's disease to calculate the estimated years from expected symptom onset (age of the participant minus parent's age at symptom onset). We conducted cross-sectional analyses of baseline data in relation to estimated years from expected symptom onset in order to determine the relative order and magnitude of pathophysiological changes.
RESULTS: Concentrations of amyloid-beta (A?)42 in the CSF appeared to decline 25 years before expected symptom onset. A? deposition, as measured by positron-emission tomography with the use of Pittsburgh compound B, was detected 15 years before expected symptom onset. Increased concentrations of tau protein in the CSF and an increase in brain atrophy were detected 15 years before expected symptom onset. Cerebral hypometabolism and impaired episodic memory were observed 10 years before expected symptom onset. Global cognitive impairment, as measured by the Mini–Mental State Examination and the Clinical Dementia Rating scale, was detected 5 years before expected symptom onset, and patients met diagnostic criteria for dementia at an average of 3 years after expected symptom onset.
CONCLUSIONS: We found that autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease was associated with a series of pathophysiological changes over decades in CSF biochemical markers of Alzheimer's disease, brain amyloid deposition, and brain metabolism as well as progressive cognitive impairment. Our results require confirmation with the use of longitudinal data and may not apply to patients with sporadic Alzheimer's disease.

Bateman RJ, Xiong C, Benzinger TL, et al. Clinical and biomarker changes in dominantly inherited Alzheimer's disease. N Engl J Med. 2012;367(9):795-804.

Full-length amyloid beta peptides (A?1–40/42) form neuritic amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients and are implicated in AD pathology. However, recent transgenic animal models cast doubt on their direct role in AD pathology. Nonamyloidogenic truncated amyloid-beta fragments (A?11–42 and A?17–42) are also found in amyloid plaques of AD and in the preamyloid lesions of Down syndrome, a model system for early-onset AD study. Very little is known about the structure and activity of these smaller peptides, although they could be the primary AD and Down syndrome pathological agents. Using complementary techniques of molecular dynamics simulations, atomic force microscopy, channel conductance measurements, calcium imaging, neuritic degeneration, and cell death assays, we show that nonamyloidogenic A?9–42 and A?17–42 peptides form ion channels with loosely attached subunits and elicit single-channel conductances. The subunits appear mobile, suggesting insertion of small oligomers, followed by dynamic channel assembly and dissociation. These channels allow calcium uptake in amyloid precursor protein-deficient cells. The channel mediated calcium uptake induces neurite degeneration in human cortical neurons. Channel conductance, calcium uptake, and neurite degeneration are inhibited by zinc, a blocker of amyloid ion channel activity. Thus, truncated A? fragments could account for undefined roles played by full length A?s and provide a unique mechanism of AD and Down syndrome pathologies. The toxicity of nonamyloidogenic peptides via an ion channel mechanism necessitates a reevaluation of the current therapeutic approaches targeting the nonamyloidogenic pathway as avenue for AD treatment.

Jang H, Arce FT, Ramachandran S, et al. Truncated beta-amyloid peptide channels provide an alternative mechanism for Alzheimer's Disease and Down syndrome. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2010;107(14):6538-43.

Extracellular and intraneuronal accumulation of amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptide aggregates in the brain has been hypothesized to play an important role in the neuropathology of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). The main Aβ variants detected in the human brain are Aβ1-40 and Aβ1-42, however a significant proportion of AD brain Aβ consists also of N-terminal truncated species. Pyroglutamate-modified Aβ peptides have been demonstrated to be the predominant components among all N-terminal truncated Aβ species in AD brains and represent highly desirable and abundant therapeutic targets. The current review describes the properties and localization of two pyroglutamate-modified Aβ peptides, AβN3(pE) and AβN11(pE), in the brain. The role of glutaminyl cyclase (QC) in the formation of these peptides is also addressed. In addition, two potential therapeutic strategies, the inhibition of QC and immunotherapy approaches, and clinical trials aimed to target these important pathological Aβ species are reviewed.

Perez-Garmendia R, Gevorkian G. Pyroglutamate-Modified Amyloid Beta Peptides: Emerging Targets for Alzheimer´s Disease Immunotherapy. Current Neuropharmacology. 2013;11(5):491-498. doi:10.2174/1570159X11311050004 .

N-terminally truncated Aß peptides starting with pyroglutamate (AßpE3) represent a major fraction of all Aß peptides in the brain of Alzheimer disease (AD) patients. A?pE3 has a higher aggregation propensity and stability and shows increased toxicity compared with full-length Aß. In the present work, we generated a novel monoclonal antibody (9D5) that recognizes oligomeric assemblies of AßpE3 and studied the potential involvement of oligomeric AßpE3 in vivo using transgenic mouse models as well as human brains from sporadic and familial AD cases. 9D5 showed an unusual staining pattern with almost nondetectable plaques in sporadic AD patients and non-demented controls. Interestingly, in sporadic and familial AD cases prominent intraneuronal and blood vessel staining was observed. Using a novel sandwich ELISA significantly decreased levels of oligomers in plasma samples from patients with AD compared with healthy controls were identified. Moreover, passive immunization of 5XFAD mice with 9D5 significantly reduced overall Aß plaque load and AßpE3 levels, and normalized behavioral deficits. These data indicate that 9D5 is a therapeutically and diagnostically effective monoclonal antibody targeting low molecular weight AßpE3 oligomers.

Wirths O, Erck C, Martens H, et al. Identification of low molecular weight pyroglutamate A{beta} oligomers in Alzheimer disease: a novel tool for therapy and diagnosis. J Biol Chem. 2010;285(53):41517-24.

Updates coming soon.