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Chronic inflammatory reactions in the brain appear to be one of the primary etiological factors in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). This is supported by the fact that the secretory products of inflammatory reactions, which include cytokines, complement proteins, adhesion molecules, and free radicals, are neurotoxic. We have recently reported that prostaglandins (PGs), which are also released during inflammatory reactions, cause rapid degenerative changes in differentiated murine neuroblastoma cells (NB) in culture. PGA1 is more effective than PGE1. Similar observations were made in a primary culture of fetal rat hippocampal cells. Epidemiological and clinical studies on AD also support the involvement of PGs in neuronal degeneration. Thus, we propose a hypothesis that PGs are one of the major extracellular signals that initiate neuronal degeneration, which is mediated by intracellular signals such as the β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) and ubiquitin, since the levels of these proteins are increased by PG treatment. We further suggest that adenosine 3′, 5′-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) is one of the factors that regulate the levels of both Aβ and ubiquitin in NB cells. Increases in the level of Aβ in NB cells following an elevation of intracellular cAMP levels appear to be due to an increase in the rate of processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) rather than an increase in the expression of APP. The mechanisms underlying Aβ-induced neuronal degeneration have been under intense investigation, and several mechanisms of action have been proposed. We postulate that PG-induced elevation of Aβ may lead to an increased binding of Aβ to the 20S proteasome, resulting in a reduction of 20S proteasome-mediated degradation of ubiquitin-conjugated proteins. This is predicted to lead to an increase in an accumulation of abnormal proteins, which ultimately contribute to neuronal degeneration and death. Based on our hypothesis and on studies published by others, we propose that a combination of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which inhibit the synthesis of PGs, and antioxidant vitamins, which quench free radicals and both of which have been recently reported to be of some value in AD treatment when used individually, may be much more effective in the prevention and treatment of AD than the individual agents alone.