Hypoxia and GABA shunt activation in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease

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We have previously observed that the conversion of mild cognitive impairment to definitive Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with a significant increase in the serum level of 2,4-dihydroxybutyrate (2,4-DHBA). The metabolic generation of 2,4-DHBA is linked to the activation of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) shunt, an alternative energy production pathway activated during cellular stress, when the function of Krebs cycle is compromised. The GABA shunt can be triggered by local hypoperfusion and subsequent hypoxia in AD brains caused by cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase (SSADH) is a key enzyme in the GABA shunt, converting succinic semialdehyde (SSA) into succinate, a Krebs cycle intermediate. A deficiency of SSADH activity stimulates the conversion of SSA into γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), an alternative route from the GABA shunt. GHB can exert not only acute neuroprotective activities but unfortunately also chronic detrimental effects which may lead to cognitive impairment. Subsequently, GHB can be metabolized to 2,4-DHBA and secreted from the brain. Thus, the activation of the GABA shunt and the generation of GHB and 2,4-DHBA can have an important role in the early phase of AD pathogenesis.HighlightsAlzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with an increase in serum level of 2,4-dihydroxybutyrate.This may indicate that the GABA shunt has been activated in AD.The GABA shunt is an alternative energy production pathway for mitochondrial Krebs cycle.Local hypoperfusion and hypoxia might activate the GABA shunt in AD.

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