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Eur Biophys J. 2008 Mar;37(3):269-79. Epub 2007 Nov 21.

Copper binding to the Alzheimer's disease amyloid precursor protein.

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  • 1Biota Structural Biology Laboratory, St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research, 9 Princes Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065, Australia.


Alzheimer's disease is the fourth biggest killer in developed countries. Amyloid precursor protein (APP) plays a central role in the development of the disease, through the generation of a peptide called A beta by proteolysis of the precursor protein. APP can function as a metalloprotein and modulate copper transport via its extracellular copper binding domain (CuBD). Copper binding to this domain has been shown to reduce A beta levels and hence a molecular understanding of the interaction between metal and protein could lead to the development of novel therapeutics to treat the disease. We have recently determined the three-dimensional structures of apo and copper bound forms of CuBD. The structures provide a mechanism by which CuBD could readily transfer copper ions to other proteins. Importantly, the lack of significant conformational changes to CuBD on copper binding suggests a model in which copper binding affects the dimerisation state of APP leading to reduction in A beta production. We thus predict that disruption of APP dimers may be a novel therapeutic approach to treat Alzheimer's disease.

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