Soluble amyloid precursor protein-alpha (sAPPα) is a multi-functional brain-derived protein that has neuroprotective, neurogenic and neurotropic properties. Moreover, it is known to facilitate synaptic function and promote neural repair. These properties suggest sAPPα may be useful as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of neurological diseases characterized by synaptic failure and neuronal loss, such as occurs in Alzheimer's disease, and for neural repair following traumatic brain injury and stroke. However, sAPPα's relatively large size and the difficulty of ongoing delivery of therapeutics to the brain mean this is not currently practicable. Importantly, however, sAPPα is composed of several neuroactive domains that each possess properties that collectively are remarkably similar to those of sAPPα itself. Here, we review the molecular structure of sAPPα and identify the domains that contribute to its overall functionality. Four peptide motifs present as possible targets for therapeutic development. We review their physiochemical and neuroactive properties, both within sAPPα and as isolated peptides, and discuss their potential for future development as multipurpose therapeutic agents for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other disorders of neuronal function. Further, we discuss the role of heparin binding sites, found within sAPPα's structure and overlapping with the neuroactive domains, as sites for interactions with effector proteins and synaptic receptors. The potential role of the neuroactive peptides known as Cationic Arginine-Rich Peptides (CARPs) as neuroprotective motifs is also reviewed. Mechanisms of peptide delivery to the brain are briefly discussed. Finally, we summarise the potential benefits and pitfalls of using the isolated peptides, either individually or in combination, for the treatment of neurological diseases.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid-beta; Learning; Memory; Peptides; Soluble amyloid precursor protein-alpha; Synaptic plasticity; Therapeutics.
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