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γ-Secretase as a Therapeutic Target in Alzheimer's Disease

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γ-secretase is an intramembranous multi-protein complex that cleaves many type-I proteins with critical roles in neuronal function. In Alzheimer's disease (AD) interest in γ-secretase comes, in part, from the fact that this complex is responsible for the last cleavage step of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) that generates the amyloid-β peptide (Aβ). Aβ represents the primary component of the amyloid plaque, one of the main pathological hallmarks of AD. Over the last years, considerable efforts have been made to develop drugs to reduce Aβ production with the aim to slow AD progression. Many inhibitors of this protease have been identified, although the clinical use has been limited by concerns about the possible toxicity of these compounds. γ-secretase inhibitors have been shown to reduce Aβ in vitro and in vivo, but interference with Notch proteolysis causes immunological and gastrointestinal toxicity in animal models. The observation that some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) derivatives are able to specifically lower Aβ42 and the development of inhibitors with Notch-sparing selectivity has revived the interest in γ-secretase as an attractive target for drug intervention in AD. Despite the fact that all clinical trials with NSAIDs or γ-secretase modulators in AD have failed to show clinical benefit thus far, the main concern is that the Aβ-lowering potency of the tested compounds may be too low. Active efforts are being made to develop compounds able to penetrate into the brain to lower Aβ at physiological doses without interfering with the cleavage and function of other critical γ-secretase substrates. These novel inhibitors and modulators may soon offer hope in the Alzheimer's fight.





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Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; NSAIDs; Notch; β-amyloid; γ-Secretase

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-04-01

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  • Current Drug Targets aims to cover the latest and most outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry and pharmacology of molecular drug targets e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will be devoted to a single timely topic, with series of in-depth reviews, written by leaders in the field, covering a range of current topics on drug targets. These issues will be organized and led by a guest editor who is a recognized expert in the overall topic. As the discovery, identification, characterisation and validation of novel human drug targets for drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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