Functions of the Alzheimer Key Protein APP
The APP protein plays a key role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Little is known, however, about its role for nerve cell communication in the healthy human brain. The interdisciplinary and transregional research group funded by the DGF is investigating the “Physiological Functions of the APP Gene Family in the Central Nervous System“. The purpose is two-fold: to find out more about the protein’s physiological role for learning and memory, and to enhance the understanding of APP functions with a view to developing new therapeutic approaches to treat Alzheimer´s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is triggered by deposits of unsoluble protein aggregates that form “plaques” in the vicinity of nerve cells within the brains of Alzheimer patients. These plaques are mainly composed of the ß-amyloid peptide. The damage it inflicts on the nerve cells finally kills them. This small protein is derived via proteolysis from a much larger precursor, the amyloid precursor protein APP. So far, the normal cell biological and physiological functions of APP and its proteolytic products are largely unknown, although APP is produced in almost all brain cells, notably in regions important for memory formation. The aim of the new integrated research project is to employ an interdisciplinary approach to achieve a better understanding of the physiological functions of APP from the molecular level to its role in the intact nervous system.