International review of cytology - a survey of cell biology, vol 254 vol:254 pages:215-300
Alzheimer's disease (AD), described for the first time 100 years ago, is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by two neuropathological hallmarks: neurofibrillary tangles containing hyperphosphorylated tau and senile plaques. These lesions are likely initiated by an imbalance between production and clearance of amyloid beta, leading to increased oligomerization of these peptides, formation of amyloid plaques in the brain of the patient, and final dementia. Amyloid beta is generated from amyloid precursor protein (APP) by subsequent beta- and gamma-secretase cleavage, the latter being a multiprotein complex consisting of presenilin-1 or -2, nicastrin, APH-1, and PEN-2. Alternatively, APP can be cleaved by alpha- and gamma-secretase, precluding the production of A beta. In this review, we discuss the major breakthroughs during the past two decades of molecular cell biology and the current genetic and cell biological state of the art on APP proteolysis, including structure-function relationships and subcellular localization. Finally, potential directions for cell biological research toward the development of AD therapies are briefly discussed.