Accumulation of caspase cleaved amyloid precursor protein represents an early neurodegenerative event in aging and in Alzheimer's disease

Neurobiol Dis. 2003 Dec;14(3):391-403. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2003.07.006.


The activation of caspase-3 and possibly other caspases during apoptosis may lead to the cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and subsequent accumulation of APP cleavage products (cAPP). We examined the association between activated caspase-3 and cAPP in human brain by qualitative and quantitative analysis of in situ immunohistochemistry and Western blots. Frontal cortex and hippocampal tissue from age-matched control and Alzheimer's brains (AD) was used. Both activated caspase-3 and cAPP are increased in AD [Braak and Braak (BB) stage IV-VI] compared to aged control (BB stage 0-1) and transitional (BB stage II-III) cases in the hippocampal and frontal cortex. Caspase-3 activation and the accumulation of APP cleavage fragments appear to either parallel or precede neurofibrillary tangle formation. These findings raise the possibility that the activation of caspase-3 and cleavage of APP may be involved with neuronal degeneration and that pathways characteristic of apoptosis are activated in AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Aging / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / enzymology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Brain / enzymology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / enzymology
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Hippocampus / enzymology
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Degeneration / enzymology
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / enzymology
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation / physiology


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Peptides
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases