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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Aug;1768(8):1943-51. Epub 2007 Jan 28.

Role of gangliosides in Alzheimer's disease.

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Department of Alzheimer's Disease Research, National Institute for Longevity Sciences, National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, 36-3 Gengo, Morioka, Obu 474-8522, Japan.


One of the fundamental questions regarding the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is how the monomeric, nontoxic amyloid beta-protein (Abeta) is converted to its toxic assemblies in the brain. A unique Abeta species was identified previously in an AD brain, which is characterized by its binding to the GM1 ganglioside (GM1). On the basis of the molecular characteristics of this GM1-bound Abeta (GAbeta), it was hypothesized that Abeta adopts an altered conformation through its binding to GM1, and GAbeta acts as a seed for Abeta fibrillogenesis in an AD brain. To date, various in vitro and in vivo studies of GAbeta have been performed, and their results support the hypothesis. Using a novel monoclonal antibody specific to GAbeta, it was confirmed that GAbeta is endogenously generated in the brain. Regarding the role of gangliosides in the facilitation of Abeta assembly, it has recently been reported that region-specific deposition of hereditary variant-type Abetas is determined by local gangliosides in the brain. Furthermore, it is likely that risk factors for AD, including aging and the expression of apolipoprotein E4, alter GM1 distribution on the neuronal surface, leading to GAbeta generation.

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