Abeta-degrading enzymes: modulators of Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis and targets for therapeutic intervention

Biochem Soc Trans. 2005 Nov;33(Pt 5):1101-5. doi: 10.1042/BST20051101.


The accumulation of Abeta (amyloid beta-protein) peptides in the brain is a pathological hallmark of all forms of AD (Alzheimer's disease) and reducing Abeta levels can prevent or reverse cognitive deficits in mouse models of the disease. Abeta is produced continuously and its concentration is determined in part by the activities of several degradative enzymes, including NEP (neprilysin), IDE (insulin-degrading enzyme), ECE-1 (endothelin-converting enzyme 1) and ECE-2, and probably plasmin. Decreased activity of any of these enzymes due to genetic mutation, or age- or disease-related alterations in gene expression or proteolytic activity, may increase the risk for AD. Conversely, increased expression of these enzymes may confer a protective effect. Increasing Abeta degradation through gene therapy, transcriptional activation or even pharmacological activation of the Abeta-degrading enzymes represents a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of AD that is currently being evaluated in cell-culture and animal models. In this paper, we will review the roles of NEP, IDE, ECE and plasmin in determining endogenous Abeta concentration, highlighting recent results concerning the regulation of these enzymes and their potential as therapeutic targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / chemistry
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases
  • Brain / enzymology
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulysin / metabolism
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neprilysin / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Isoenzymes
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases
  • Endopeptidases
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases
  • BACE1 protein, human
  • Bace1 protein, mouse
  • Neprilysin
  • Insulysin