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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Apr 12, 1994; 91(8): 3270–3274.

A model for beta-amyloid aggregation and neurotoxicity based on free radical generation by the peptide: relevance to Alzheimer disease.


beta-Amyloid is a 39- to 43-amino-acid neurotoxic peptide that aggregates to form the core of Alzheimer disease-associated senile (amyloid) plaques. No satisfactory hypothesis has yet been proposed to explain the mechanism of beta-amyloid aggregation and toxicity. We present mass spectrometric and electron paramagnetic resonance spin trapping evidence that beta-amyloid, in aqueous solution, fragments and generates free radical peptides. beta-Amyloid fragments, at concentrations that previously have been shown to be neurotoxic to cultured neurons, can inactivate oxidation-sensitive glutamine synthetase and creatine kinase enzymes. Also, salicylate hydroxylation assays indicate that reactive oxygen species are generated by the beta-amyloid-(25-35) fragment during cell-free incubation. These results are formulated into a free radical-based unifying hypothesis for neurotoxicity of beta-amyloid and are discussed with reference to membrane molecular alterations in Alzheimer disease.

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