A key question in understanding AD is whether extracellular Aβ deposition of parenchymal amyloid plaques or intraneuronal Aβ accumulation initiates the AD process. Amyloid precursor protein (APP) is endocytosed from the cell surface into endosomes where it is cleaved to produce soluble Aβ which is then released into the brain interstitial fluid. Intraneuronal Aβ accumulation is hypothesized to predominate from the neuronal uptake of this soluble extracellular Aβ rather than from ER/Golgi processing of APP. We demonstrate that substitution of the two adjacent histidine residues of Aβ40 results in a significant decrease in its binding with PC12 cells and mouse cortical/hippocampal neurons. These substitutions also result in a dramatic enhancement of both thioflavin-T positive fibril formation and binding to preformed Aβ fibrils while maintaining its plaque-binding ability in AD transgenic mice. Hence, alteration of the histidine domain of Aβ prevented neuronal binding and drove Aβ to enhanced fibril formation and subsequent amyloid plaque deposition - a potential mechanism for removing toxic species of Aβ. Substitution or even masking of these Aβ histidine residues might provide a new therapeutic direction for minimizing neuronal uptake and subsequent neuronal degeneration and maximizing targeting to amyloid plaques.
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