Neuroprotective approaches in experimental models of beta-amyloid neurotoxicity: relevance to Alzheimer's disease

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Aug;23(6):963-1008. doi: 10.1016/s0278-5846(99)00058-5.


1. beta-Amyloid peptides (A beta s) accumulate abundantly in the Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain in areas subserving information acquisition and processing, and memory formation. A beta fragments are produced in a process of abnormal proteolytic cleavage of their precursor, the amyloid precursor protein (APP). While conflicting data exist in the literature on the roles of A beta s in the brain, and particularly in AD, recent studies have provided firm experimental evidence for the direct neurotoxic properties of A beta. 2. Sequence analysis of A beta s revealed a high degree of evolutionary conservation and inter-species homology of the A beta amino acid sequence. In contrast, synthetic A beta fragments, even if modified fluorescent or isotope-labeled derivatives, are pharmacological candidates for in vitro and in vivo modeling of their cellular actions. During the past decade, acute injection, prolonged mini-osmotic brain perfusion approaches or A beta infusions into the blood circulation were developed in order to investigate the effects of synthetic A beta s, whereas transgenic models provided insight into the distinct molecular steps of pathological APP cleavage. 3. The hippocampus, caudate putamen, amygdala and neocortex all formed primary targets of acute neurotoxicity screening, but functional consequences of A beta infusions were primarily demonstrated following either intracerebroventricular or basal forebrain (medial septum or magnocellular basal nucleus (MBN)) infusions of A beta fragments. 4. In vivo investigations confirmed that, while the active core of A beta is located within the beta(25-35) sequence, the flanking peptide regions influence not only the folding properties of the A beta fragments, but also their in vivo neurotoxic potentials. 5. It has recently been established that A beta administration deranges neuron-glia signaling, affects the glial glutamate uptake and thereby induces noxious glutamatergic stimulation of nerve cells. In fact, a critical role for N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors was postulated in the neurotoxic processes. Additionally, A beta s might become internalized, either after their selective binding to cell-surface receptors or after membrane association in consequence of their highly lipophilic nature, and induce free radical generation and subsequent oxidative injury. Ca(2+)-mediated neurotoxic events and generation of oxygen free radicals may indeed potentiate each other, or even converge to the same neurotoxic events, leading to cell death. 6. Neuroprotection against A beta toxicity was achieved by both pre- and post-treatment with NMDA receptor channel antagonists. Moreover, direct radical-scavengers, such as vitamin E or vitamin C, attenuated A beta toxicity with high efficacy. Interestingly, combined drug treatments did not necessarily result in additive enhanced neuroprotection. 7. Similarly to the blockade of NMDA receptors, the neurotoxic action of A beta s could be markedly decreased by pharmacological manipulation of voltage-dependent Ca(2+)-channels, serotonergic IA or adenosine A1 receptors, and by drugs eliciting membrane hyperpolarization or indirect blockade of Ca(2+)-mediated intracellular consequences of intracerebral A beta infusions. 8. A beta neurotoxicity might be dose-dependently modulated by trace metals. In spite of the fact that zinc (Zn) may act as a potent inhibitor of the NMDA receptor channel, high Zn doses accelerate A beta fibril formation, stabilize the beta-sheet conformation and thereby potentiate A beta neurotoxicity. Combined trace element supplementation with Se, Mn, or Mg, which prevails over the expression of detoxifying enzymes or counteracts intracellular elevations of Ca2+, may reduce the neurotoxic impact of A beta s. 9. Alterations in the regulatory functions of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis may contribute significantly to neurodegenerative changes in the brain. Furthermore, AD patients exhibit substantially increased circadia

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Neuroprotective Agents