Journal Club with Dr. Oliver Medvedik will return on November 23rd at 12:00 Eastern live on our Facebook page. A new study appears to have solved the mystery of how amyloid beta, a key player in Alzheimer’s, forms in brain nerve cells. The data suggests that the sigma-1 receptor may be a therapeutic target for reducing Amyloid beta production, specifically in axons.
Axonal generation of Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-associated amyloid-β (Aβ) plays a key role in AD neuropathology, but the cellular mechanisms involved in its release have remained elusive. We previously reported that palmitoylated APP (palAPP) partitions to lipid rafts where it serves as a preferred substrate for β-secretase. Mitochondria-associated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes (MAMs) are cholesterol-rich lipid rafts that are upregulated in AD. Here, we show that downregulating MAM assembly by either RNA silencing or pharmacological modulation of the MAM-resident sigma1 receptor (S1R) leads to attenuated β-secretase cleavage of palAPP. Upregulation of MAMs promotes trafficking of palAPP to the cell surface, β-secretase cleavage, and Aβ generation. We develop a microfluidic device and use it to show that MAM levels alter Aβ generation specifically in neuronal processes and axons, but not in cell bodies. These data suggest therapeutic strategies for reducing axonal release of Aβ and attenuating β-amyloid pathology in AD.