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J Neurochem. 1999 Oct;73(4):1626-34.

The nonfibrillar amyloid beta-peptide induces apoptotic neuronal cell death: involvement of its C-terminal fusogenic domain.

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INSERM U-505, Institut des Cordeliers, Paris, France.


The toxicity of the nonaggregated amyloid beta-peptide (1-40) [A beta(1-40)] on the viability of rat cortical neurons in primary culture was investigated. We demonstrated that low concentrations of A beta peptide, in a nonfibrillar form, induced a time- and dose-dependent apoptotic cell death, including DNA condensation and fragmentation. We compared the neurotoxicity of the A beta(1-40) peptide with those of several A beta-peptide domains, comprising the membrane-destabilizing C-terminal domain of A beta peptide (e.g., amino acids 29-40 and 29-42). These peptides reproduced the effects of the (1-40) peptide, whereas mutant nonfusogenic A beta peptides and the central region of the A beta peptide (e.g., amino acids 13-28) had no effect on cell viability. We further demonstrated that the neurotoxicity of the nonaggregated A beta peptide paralleled a rapid and stable interaction between the A beta peptide and the plasma membrane of neurons, preceding apoptosis and DNA fragmentation. By contrast, the peptide in a fibrillar form induced a rapid and dramatic neuronal death mainly through a necrotic pathway, under our conditions. Taken together, our results suggest that A beta induces neuronal cell death by either apoptosis and necrosis and that an interaction between the nonfibrillar C-terminal domain of the A beta peptide and the plasma membrane of cortical neurons might represent an early event in a cascade leading to neurodegeneration.

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