Research into the cause of Alzheimer's disease (AD) has identified strong connections to cholesterol. Cholesterol and cholesterol esters can modulate amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing, thus altering production of the A beta peptides that deposit in cortical amyloid plaques. Processing depends on the encounter between APP and cellular secretases, and is thus subject to the influence of cholesterol-dependent factors including protein trafficking, and distribution between membrane subdomains. We have directly investigated endogenous membrane beta-secretase activity in the presence of a range of membrane cholesterol levels in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells and human platelets. Membrane cholesterol significantly influenced membrane beta-secretase activity in a biphasic manner, with positive correlations at higher membrane cholesterol levels, and negative correlations at lower membrane cholesterol levels. Platelets from individuals with AD or mild cognitive impairment (n = 172) were significantly more likely to lie within the negative correlation zone than control platelets (n = 171). Pharmacological inhibition of SH-SY5Y beta-secretase activity resulted in increased membrane cholesterol levels. Our findings are consistent with the existence of a homeostatic feedback loop between membrane cholesterol level and membrane beta-secretase activity, and suggest that this regulatory mechanism is disrupted in platelets from individuals with cognitive impairment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience