N-terminally truncated amyloid-beta (Abeta) peptides are present in early and diffuse plaques of individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD), are overproduced in early onset familial AD and their amount seems to be directly correlated to the severity and the progression of the disease in AD and Down's syndrome (DS). The pyroglutamate-containing isoforms at position 3 [AbetaN3(pE)-40/42] represent the prominent form among the N-truncated species, and may account for more than 50% of Abeta accumulated in plaques. In this study, we compared the toxic properties, fibrillogenic capabilities, and in vitro degradation profile of Abeta1-40, Abeta1-42, AbetaN3(pE)-40 and AbetaN3(pE)-42. Our data show that fibre morphology of Abeta peptides is greatly influenced by the C-terminus while toxicity, interaction with cell membranes and degradation are influenced by the N-terminus. AbetaN3(pE)-40 induced significantly more cell loss than the other species both in neuronal and glial cell cultures. Aggregated AbetaN3(pE) peptides were heavily distributed on plasma membrane and within the cytoplasm of treated cells. AbetaN3(pE)-40/42 peptides showed a significant resistance to degradation by cultured astrocytes, while full-length peptides resulted partially degraded. These findings suggest that formation of N-terminally modified peptides may enhance beta-amyloid aggregation and toxicity, likely worsening the onset and progression of the disease.
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