Metallostasis in Alzheimer's disease

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2012 has been another year in which multiple large-scale clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease (AD) have failed to meet their clinical endpoints. With the social and financial burden of this disease increasing every year, the onus is now on the field of AD researchers to investigate alternative ideas to deliver outcomes for patients. Although several major clinical trials targeting Aβ have failed, three smaller clinical trials targeting metal interactions with Aβ have all shown benefit for patients. Here we review the genetic, pathological, biochemical, and pharmacological evidence that underlies the metal hypothesis of AD. The AD-affected brain suffers from metallostasis, or fatigue of metal trafficking, resulting in redistribution of metals into inappropriate compartments. The metal hypothesis is built upon a triad of transition elements: iron, copper, and zinc. The hypothesis has matured from early investigations showing amyloidogenic and oxidative stress consequences of these metals; recently, disease-related proteins, APP, tau, and presenilin, have been shown to have major roles in metal regulation, which provides insight into the pathway of neurodegeneration in AD and illuminates potential new therapeutic avenues.


Alzheimer disease is complicated by inappropriate compartmentalization of metals. Zn and Cu are sequestered into plaques, whereas intraneurally these metals are depleted. Dysfunction of APP and tau engenders intraneuronal iron accumulation. Drugs that modulate metals have shown promise in three clinical trials for AD.

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