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Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2000 Aug;33(1):1-12.

Wnt signaling function in Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Centro de Regulación Celular y Patología, Departamento de Biología Celular y Molecular, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease with progressive dementia accompanied by three main structural changes in the brain: diffuse loss of neurons; intracellular protein deposits termed neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and extracellular protein deposits termed amyloid or senile plaques, surrounded by dystrophic neurites. Two major hypotheses have been proposed in order to explain the molecular hallmarks of the disease: The 'amyloid cascade' hypothesis and the 'neuronal cytoskeletal degeneration' hypothesis. While the former is supported by genetic studies of the early-onset familial forms of AD (FAD), the latter revolves around the observation in vivo that cytoskeletal changes - including the abnormal phosphorylation state of the microtubule associated protein tau - may precede the deposition of senile plaques. Recent studies have suggested that the trafficking process of membrane associated proteins is modulated by the FAD-linked presenilin (PS) proteins, and that amyloid beta-peptide deposition may be initiated intracellularly, through the secretory pathway. Current hypotheses concerning presenilin function are based upon its cellular localization and its putative interaction as macromolecular complexes with the cell-adhesion/signaling beta-catenin molecule and the glycogen synthase kinase 3beta (GSK-3beta) enzyme. Developmental studies have shown that PS proteins function as components in the Notch signal transduction cascade and that beta-catenin and GSK-3beta are transducers of the Wnt signaling pathway. Both pathways are thought to have an important role in brain development, and they have been connected through Dishevelled (Dvl) protein, a known transducer of the Wnt pathway. In addition to a review of the current state of research on the subject, we present a cell signaling model in which a sustained loss of function of Wnt signaling components would trigger a series of misrecognition events, determining the onset and development of AD.

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