Because of their abundance, resistance to proteolysis, rapid aggregation and neurotoxicity, N-terminally truncated and, in particular, pyroglutamate (pE)-modified Abeta peptides have been suggested as being important in the initiation of pathological cascades resulting in the development of Alzheimer's disease. We found that the N-terminal pE-formation is catalyzed by glutaminyl cyclase in vivo. Glutaminyl cyclase expression was upregulated in the cortices of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and correlated with the appearance of pE-modified Abeta. Oral application of a glutaminyl cyclase inhibitor resulted in reduced Abeta(3(pE)-42) burden in two different transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease and in a new Drosophila model. Treatment of mice was accompanied by reductions in Abeta(x-40/42), diminished plaque formation and gliosis and improved performance in context memory and spatial learning tests. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that Abeta(3(pE)-42) acts as a seed for Abeta aggregation by self-aggregation and co-aggregation with Abeta(1-40/42). Therefore, Abeta(3(pE)-40/42) peptides seem to represent Abeta forms with exceptional potency for disturbing neuronal function. The reduction of brain pE-Abeta by inhibition of glutaminyl cyclase offers a new therapeutic option for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and provides implications for other amyloidoses, such as familial Danish dementia.