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Lipids Health Dis. 2005 Jun 10;4:13.

Does cholesterol act as a protector of cholinergic projections in Alzheimer's disease?

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Department of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry, University of Newcastle, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle General Hospital, Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE4 6BE, UK.


The relationship between Alzheimer's disease (AD) and progressive degeneration of the forebrain cholinergic system is very well established, whereas mechanisms linking this disease with cholesterol, apolipoprotein E (apoE) phenotype, and amyloid precursor protein (APP) metabolism have not been fully elucidated even though there is a plethora of publications separately on each of these issues. The intention of this hypothesis is to unify knowledge coming from all of these areas. It is based on an assumption that the process of APP hypermetabolism is a neuroprotective response for age-related cholinergic deterioration. In some individuals this initially positive process becomes highly overregulated by genetic or/and epigenetic risk factors and after many years of accumulations lead eventually to AD. I hypothesise that neuroprotective role of APP-hypermetabolism might be related to enrichment of neuronal membranes (lipid rafts in particular) in cholesterol in order to compensate for decrease in presynaptic cholinergic transmission and/or AD-related decrease in cholesterol levels. The above is consistent with findings indicating that activity of both muscarinic and nicotinic cholinergic receptors is correlated in a positive manner with cholesterol plasmalemmal content. Briefly--APP metabolism together with transport of cholesterol in apoE containing lipoproteins seem to play a key role in mobilising cholesterol into neuronal membranes.

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