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Processing of Amyloid Precursor Protein as a Biochemical Link Between Atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's Disease

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Macrophage activation in atherosclerotic plaques plays a role in plaque destabilization, rupture and subsequent atherothrombosis. Platelet phagocytosis that occurs within human atherosclerotic plaques can activate macrophages and it has been suggested that the platelet constituent amyloid precursor protein (APP) is involved. Recent studies show that amyloid β (Aβ ), a peptide extensively studied in Alzheimer's disease and that is cleaved from APP by β - and γ-secretase, and/or Aβ-like peptides are also present in human atherosclerotic plaques, in particular in activated, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expressing perivascular macrophages that had phagocytized platelets. In vitro studies confirm that platelet phagocytosis leads to macrophage activation and suggest that platelet-derived APP is proteolytically processed to Aβ -like peptides, resulting in iNOS induction. In addition, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and HMGCoA reductase inhibitors (statins), two classes of drugs reported to affect APP processing and Aβ formation in Alzheimer's disease, have been evaluated for their capacity to inhibit macrophage activation evoked by platelet phagocytosis. Remarkably, the same NSAIDs reported to alter -secretase activity in Alzheimer's disease also reduce macrophage activation after platelet phagocytosis and inhibit formation of A -containing peptides. From the statins investigated (fluvastatin, atorvastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, lovastatin and rosuvastatin) only fluvastatin and atorvastatin selectively inhibit macrophage activation after platelet phagocytosis, possibly through inhibition of Rho activity. Taken together, these new findings point to the involvement of platelet-derived APP in macrophage activation in atherosclerosis and suggest a biochemical link between atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. Accordingly, drugs interfering with APP processing might have an impact on both diseases.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Atherosclerosis; amyloid precursor protein; inducible nitric oxide synthase; macrophage activation; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; platelet phagocytosis; statins; β-amyloid peptide

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Division of Pharmacology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium.

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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  • Cardiovascular & Hematological Disorders - Drug Targets aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry of contemporary molecular targets involved in cardiovascular and hematological disorders e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will contain a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics on drug targets involved in cardiovascular and hematological disorders. As the discovery, identification, characterization and validation of novel human drug targets for cardiovascular and hematological 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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