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Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2003 May;24(5):233-8.

The Wnt pathway, cell-cycle activation and beta-amyloid: novel therapeutic strategies in Alzheimer's disease?

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Department of Human Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy.


Beta-amyloid protein (betaAP) is thought to cause neuronal loss in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Applied to neurons in culture, betaAP induces neuronal death and hyperphosphorylation of tau protein, which forms neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in AD brains. Neurons also undergo rapid apoptotic death following reactivation of a mitotic cycle. However, the molecular events that determine the fate of neurons challenged with betaAP (apoptotic death, formation of NFTs and survival) are unclear. We discuss a scenario for the pathogenesis of AD. This links betaAP-induced changes to the Wnt signaling pathway that promotes proliferation of progenitor cells and directs cells into a neuronal phenotype during brain development. We propose that betaAP-mediated facilitation of mitogenic Wnt signaling activates unscheduled mitosis in differentiated neurons. Furthermore, late downregulation of Wnt signaling by betaAP might lead to NFT formation. We propose that drugs that both inhibit the cell cycle and rescue Wnt activity could provide novel AD therapeutics.

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