Inhibition and modulation of gamma-secretase for Alzheimer's disease

Neurotherapeutics. 2008 Jul;5(3):391-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nurt.2008.05.010.


The 4-kDa amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta) is strongly implicated the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and this peptide is cut out of the amyloid beta-protein precursor (APP) by the sequential action of beta- and gamma-secretases. gamma-Secretase is a membrane-embedded protease complex that cleaves the transmembrane region of APP to produce Abeta, and this protease is a top target for developing AD therapeutics. A number of inhibitors of the gamma-secretase complex have been identified, including peptidomimetics that block the active site, helical peptides that interact with the initial substrate docking site, and other less peptide-like, more drug-like compounds. To date, one gamma-secretase inhibitor has advanced into late-phase clinical trials for the treatment of AD, but serious concerns remain. The gamma-secretase complex cleaves a number of other substrates, and gamma-secretase inhibitors cause in vivo toxicities by blocking proteolysis of one essential substrate, the Notch receptor. Thus, compounds that modulate gamma-secretase, rather than inhibit it, to selectively alter Abeta production without hindering signal transduction from the Notch receptor would be more ideal. Such modulators have been discovered and advanced, with one compound in late-phase clinical trials, renewing interest in gamma-secretase as a therapeutic target.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases