beta-Amyloid precursor protein (beta-APP), the source of the fibrillogenic amyloid beta-peptide (A beta) that accumulates in the brain of victims of Alzheimer's disease, is a multifunctional protein that is widely expressed in the nervous system. beta-Amyloid precursor protein is axonally transported and accumulates in presynaptic terminals and growth cones. A secreted form of beta-APP (sAPP alpha) is released from neurons in response to electrical activity and may function in modulation of neuronal excitability, synaptic plasticity, neurite outgrowth, synaptogenesis, and cell survival. A signaling pathway involving guanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate is activated by sAPP alpha and modulates the activities of potassium channels, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, and the transcription factor NF kappa B. Additional functions of beta-APP may include modulation of cell adhesion and regulation of proliferation of nonneuronal cells. Alternative enzymatic processing of beta-APP liberates A beta, which has a propensity to form amyloid fibrils; A beta can damage and kill neurons and increase their vulnerability to excitotoxicity. The mechanism involves generation of oxyradicals and impairment of membrane transport systems (e.g., ion-motive ATPases and glutamate and glucose transporters). Genetic mutations or age-related metabolic changes may promote neuronal degeneration in Alzheimer's disease by increasing production of A beta and/or decreasing levels of neuroprotective sAPP alpha.
- Copyright © 1997 the American Physiological Society