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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Aug;1768(8):1966-75. Epub 2007 May 3.

Amyloid beta ion channel: 3D structure and relevance to amyloid channel paradigm.

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  • 1Center for Nanomedicine, University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Ave., MC 6076, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a protein misfolding disease. Early hypothesis of AD pathology posits that 39-43 AA long misfolded amyloid beta (Abeta) peptide forms a fibrillar structure and induces pathophysiological response by destabilizing cellular ionic homeostasis. Loss of cell ionic homeostasis is believed to be either indirectly due to amyloid beta-induced oxidative stress or directly by its interaction with the cell membrane and/or activating pathways for ion exchange. Significantly though, no Abeta specific cell membrane receptors are known and oxidative stress mediated pathology is only partial and indirect. Most importantly, recent studies strongly indicate that amyloid fibrils may not by themselves cause AD pathology. Subsequently, a competing hypothesis has been proposed wherein amyloid derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs) that are large Abeta oligomers (approximately >60 kDa), mediate AD pathology. No structural details, however, of these large globular units exist nor is there any known suitable mechanism by which they would induce AD pathology. Experimental data indicate that they alter cell viability by non-specifically changing the plasma membrane stability and increasing the overall ionic leakiness. The relevance of this non-specific mechanism for AD-specific pathology seems limited. Here, we provide a viable new paradigm: AD pathology mediated by amyloid ion channels made of small Abeta oligomers (trimers to octamers). This review is focused to 3D structural analysis of the Abeta channel. The presence of amyloid channels is consistent with electrophysiological and cell biology studies summarized in companion reviews in this special issue. They show ion channel-like activity and channel-mediated cell toxicity. Amyloid ion channels with defined gating and pharmacological agents would provide a tangible target for designing therapeutics for AD pathology.

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