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Histol Histopathol. 2002 Jan;17(1):239-46.

Alzheimer beta-amyloid peptides: normal and abnormal localization.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathology is characterized by accumulation of "senile" plaques (SPs) and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in vulnerable brain regions. SPs are principally composed of aggregates of up to 42/43 amino acid beta-amyloid (A beta) peptides. The discovery of familial AD (FAD) mutations in the genes for the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilins (PSs), all of which increase A beta42 production, support the view that A beta is centrally involved in the pathogenesis of AD. A beta42 aggregates readily, and is thought to seed the formation of fibrils, which then act as templates for plaque formation. A beta is generated by the sequential intracellular cleavage of APP by beta-secretase to generate the N-terminal end of A beta, and intramembranous cleavage by gamma-secretase to generate the C-terminal end. Cell biological studies have demonstrated that A beta is generated in the ER, Golgi, and endosomal/lysosomal system. A central question involving the role of A beta in AD concerns how A beta causes disease and whether it is extracellular A beta deposition and/or intracellular A beta accumulation that initiates the disease process. The most prevalent view is that SPs are composed of extracellular deposits of secreted A beta and that A beta causes toxicity to surrounding neurons as extracellular SP. The recent emphasis on the intracellular biology of APP and A beta has led some investigators to consider the possibility that intraneuronal A beta may directly cause toxicity. In this review we will outline current knowledge of the localization of both intracellular and extracellular A beta.

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