Are N- and C-terminally Truncated A{beta} species key pathological triggers in Alzheimer’s disease? [Neurobiology]

August 24th, 2018 by Julie Dunys, Audrey Valverde, Frederic Checler

The histopathology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by neuronal loss, neurofibrillary tangles, and senile plaque formation. The latter results from an exacerbated production (familial AD cases) or altered degradation (sporadic cases) of 40/42 amino-acid-long β-amyloid peptides (Aβ peptides) that are produced by sequential cleavages of Aβ precursor protein (βAPP) by β- and γ-secretases. The amyloid cascade hypothesis proposes a key role for the full-length Aβ42 and the Aβ40/42 ratio in AD etiology, in which soluble Aβ oligomers lead to neurotoxicity, tau hyperphosphorylation, aggregation, and, ultimately, cognitive defects. However, following this postulate, during the last decade, several clinical approaches aimed at decreasing full-length Aβ42 production or neutralizing it by immunotherapy have failed to reduce or even stabilize AD-related decline. Thus, the Aβ peptide (Aβ40/42)-centric hypothesis is probably a simplified view of a much more complex situation involving a multiplicity of APP fragments and Aβ catabolites. Indeed, biochemical analyses of AD brain deposits and fluids have unraveled an Aβ peptidome consisting of additional Aβ-related species. Such Aβ catabolites could be due to either primary enzymatic cleavages of βAPP or secondary processing of Aβ itself by exopeptidases. Here, we review the diversity of N- and C-terminally truncated Aβ peptides and their biosynthesis and outline their potential function/toxicity. We also highlight their potential as new pharmaceutical targets and biomarkers.