The primary structure of canonical amyloid-β-protein was elucidated more than 30 years ago, yet the forms of amyloid-β that play a role in Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis remain poorly defined. Studies of Alzheimer's disease brain extracts suggest that amyloid-β, which migrates on sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with a molecular weight of ∼7 kDa (7kDa-Aβ), is particularly toxic; however, the nature of this species has been controversial. Using sophisticated mass spectrometry and sensitive assays of disease-relevant toxicity we show that brain-derived bioactive 7kDa-Aβ contains a heterogeneous mixture of covalently cross-linked dimers in the absence of any other detectable proteins. The identification of amyloid-β dimers may open a new phase of Alzheimer's research and allow a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease, and how to monitor and treat this devastating disorder. Future studies investigating the bioactivity of individual dimers cross-linked at known sites will be critical to this effort.
Keywords: amyloid-β-protein; human neurons; long-term potentiation; mass spectrometry; video microscopy.
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