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J Neurochem. 2003 Feb;84(3):471-9.

Cholesterol is necessary both for the toxic effect of Abeta peptides on vascular smooth muscle cells and for Abeta binding to vascular smooth muscle cell membranes.

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Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Accumulation of beta amyloid (Abeta) in the brain is central to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Abeta can bind to membrane lipids and this binding may have detrimental effects on cell function. In this study, surface plasmon resonance technology was used to study Abeta binding to membranes. Abeta peptides bound to synthetic lipid mixtures and to an intact plasma membrane preparation isolated from vascular smooth muscle cells. Abeta peptides were also toxic to vascular smooth muscle cells. There was a good correlation between the toxic effect of Abeta peptides and their membrane binding. 'Ageing' the Abeta peptides by incubation for 5 days increased the proportion of oligomeric species, and also increased toxicity and the amount of binding to lipids. The toxicities of various Abeta analogs correlated with their lipid binding. Significantly, binding was influenced by the concentration of cholesterol in the lipid mixture. Reduction of cholesterol in vascular smooth muscle cells not only reduced the binding of Abeta to purified plasma membrane preparations but also reduced Abeta toxicity. The results support the view that Abeta toxicity is a direct consequence of binding to lipids in the membrane. Reduction of membrane cholesterol using cholesterol-lowering drugs may be of therapeutic benefit because it reduces Abeta-membrane binding.

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