The biological role of the Alzheimer amyloid precursor protein in epithelial cells

Histochem Cell Biol. 2002 Feb;117(2):171-80. doi: 10.1007/s00418-001-0351-5. Epub 2001 Nov 23.


Proteolytic processing of the Alzheimer amyloid precursor protein (APP) results in the generation of at least two distinct classes of biologically relevant peptides: (1) the amyloid beta peptides which are believed to be involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and (2) the soluble N-terminal ectodomain (sAPP) which exhibits a protective but as yet ill-defined effect on neurons and epithelial cells. In this report we present an overview on the functions of sAPP as an epithelial growth factor. This function involves specific binding of sAPP to membrane rafts and results in signal transduction and various physiological effects in epithelial cells as different as keratinocytes and thyrocytes. At nanomolar concentrations sAPP induces a two to fourfold increase in the rate of cell proliferation and cell migration. Specific inhibition of APP expression by antisense techniques results in decreased sAPP release and in reduced proliferative and motogenic activities. Proliferation and migration are known to be part of complex processes such as wound healing which, therefore, might be facilitated by the growth factor function of sAPP.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Protein Binding


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor