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2 defective proteins conspire to impair the nerve cell's 'powerhouse' in Alzheimer's disease
Date:5/13/2011

Two proteins that are abnormally modified in the brains of patients with Alzheimer disease collude, resulting in ill effects on the crucial energy centers of brain cells, according to new findings published online in Neurobiology of Aging.

The research raises the possibility that pathological forms of two proteins, amyloid beta and tau, which make up the pathological hallmarks of the brains of Alzheimer patients plaques and tangles may work in tandem to decrease the survival of brain cells.

The findings come as part of a bundle of results from several laboratories that are putting cellular components known as mitochondria under increasing scrutiny in the development of a range of brain conditions, including Alzheimer, Huntington and Parkinson diseases.

Mitochondria are like tiny little energy plants inside neurons and other cells, constantly on the move, churning out the energy that cells need to survive. Mitochondria are also master controllers as they perform additional jobs such as keeping calcium levels normal. A cell with damaged mitochondria is unable to produce sufficient energy to keep the cell going, cannot buffer calcium correctly, and releases oxidative molecules that damage the cell. These types of events may be occurring in the Alzheimer disease brain, resulting in nerve cells that don't function properly.

"The idea that amyloid beta and tau may work together to cause mischief in the brain has been an evolving theme among scientists for a number of years," said Gail Johnson, Ph.D., professor of Anesthesiology and the corresponding author of the paper. "The precise relationship between the two pathologies is unclear, but there may be a synergy between the two when it comes to their effects on mitochondria in Alzheimer disease."

Johnson's group took a particularly close look at a pathological form of the protein known as tau, which helps stabilize a network of highway-like tracks called microtubul
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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