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J Neurochem. 2017 Jul;142(2):286-296. doi: 10.1111/jnc.14034. Epub 2017 May 18.

Exercise and BDNF reduce Aβ production by enhancing α-secretase processing of APP.

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Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder characterized by aggregation of toxic forms of amyloid β peptide (Aβ). Treatment strategies have largely been focused on inhibiting the enzymes (β- and γ-secretases) that liberate Aβ from the amyloid precursor protein (APP). While evidence suggests that individuals who exercise regularly are at reduced risk for AD and studies of animal models demonstrate that running can ameliorate brain Aβ pathology and associated cognitive deficits, the underlying mechanisms are unknown. However, considerable evidence suggests that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mediates beneficial effects of exercise on neuroplasticity and cellular stress resistance. Here, we tested the hypothesis that BDNF promotes non-amyloidogenic APP processing. Using a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease and cultured human neural cells, we demonstrate that exercise and BDNF reduce production of toxic Aβ peptides through a mechanism involving enhanced α-secretase processing of APP. This anti-amyloidogenic APP processing involves subcellular redistribution of α-secretase and an increase in intracellular neuroprotective APP peptides capable of binding and inhibiting β-secretase. Moreover, our results suggest that BDNF's ability to promote neurite outgrowth is primarily exerted through pathways other than APP processing. Exercise and other factors that enhance BDNF signaling may therefore have both therapeutic and prophylactic value in the battle against AD. Read the Editorial Highlight for this article on page 191.


Alzheimer's disease; BDNF; alpha-secretase; amyloid precursor protein; exercise

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