Amyloid formation is a key pathological feature of Alzheimer's disease and is considered to be a major contributing factor to neurodegeneration and clinical dementia. Amyloid is found as both diffuse and senile plaques in the parenchyma of the brain and is composed primarily of the 40- to 42-residue amyloid-beta (Abeta) peptides. The characteristic amyloid fiber exhibits a high beta-sheet content and may be generated in vitro by the nucleation-dependent self-association of the Abeta peptide and an associated conformational transition from random to beta-conformation. Growth of the fibrils occurs by assembly of the Abeta seeds into intermediate protofibrils, which in turn self-associate to form mature fibers. This multistep process may be influenced at various stages by factors that either promote or inhibit Abeta fiber formation and aggregation. Identification of these factors and understanding the driving forces behind these interactions as well as the structural motifs necessary for these interactions will help to elucidate potential sites that may be targeted to prevent amyloid formation and its associated toxicity. This review will discuss some of the modulating factors that have been identified to date and their role in fibrillogenesis.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.