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J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20(4):1215-31. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-091621.

Statins and the squalene synthase inhibitor zaragozic acid stimulate the non-amyloidogenic pathway of amyloid-beta protein precursor processing by suppression of cholesterol synthesis.

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Institute of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany.


Cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins influence the proteolytic processing of the amyloid-beta protein precursor (AbetaPP) and are reported to stimulate the activity of alpha-secretase, the major preventive secretase of Alzheimer's disease. Statins can increase the alpha-secretase activity by their cholesterol-lowering properties as well as by impairment of isoprenoids synthesis. In the present study, we elucidate the contribution of these pathways in alpha-secretase activation. We demonstrate that zaragozic acid, a potent inhibitor of squalene synthase which blocks cholesterol synthesis but allows synthesis of isoprenoids, also stimulates alpha-secretase activity. Treatment of human neuroblastoma cells with 50 microM zaragozic acid resulted in a approximately 3 fold increase of alpha-secretase activity and reduced cellular cholesterol by approximately 30%. These effects were comparable to results obtained from cells treated with a low lovastatin concentration (2 microM). Zaragozic acid-stimulated secretion of alpha-secretase-cleaved soluble AbetaPP was dose dependent and saturable. Lovastatin- or zaragozic acid-stimulated increase of alpha-secretase activity was completely abolished by a selective ADAM10 inhibitor. By targeting the alpha-secretase ADAM10 to lipid raft domains via a glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor, we demonstrate that ADAM10 is unable to cleave AbetaPP in a cholesterol-rich environment. Our results indicate that inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis by a low lovastatin concentration is sufficient for alpha-secretase activation.

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