Insights into the normal role of the protein that accumulates in the brain of Alzheimer's sufferers
As its name suggests, amyloid precursor protein (APP) is known for the problems caused by its breakdown products, the beta amyloid proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease, but its actual role in healthy brains has long been an enigma. Recent research found it interacts with members of the important Wnt signalling pathway, and through that may play a role in neuron development. In mice lacking APP, neuron shape is altered, featuring a longer axon, the main nerve fibre, at a certain developmental stage (pictured, top right, compared to a typical neuron, top left). Providing APP restores usual axon length (bottom left), but not if using a version of APP without a section known as its cysteine-rich domain, or CRD (bottom right), suggesting that this region is crucial for the signalling interactions to occur. These latest insights provide novel avenues for research into the roles of APP in neuronal development and degeneration.
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