For some time, scientists have blamed Alzheimer's disease on a small molecule called amyloid beta protein (A beta) that leaves large gummy deposits in the brain. Recent studies suggest that these A beta proteins stick together to form floating toxic clumps that kill brain cells. Now, UCLA scientists have identified a tiny loop in A beta as the likely culprit behind the adhesion process.
The UCLA team discovered that gene mutations in A beta increase the loop's flexibility, enabling it to join easily with loops from other A beta proteins and form clumps. The loop also appears in the region of the protein that regulates how — and how much — A beta is made.
Principal investigator David Teplow, professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, is available for interviews.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the findings in its Oct. 10 online early edition. For a PDF of the study, see www.eurekalert.org/pio/tipsheetdoc.php/237/zpq7481.pdf.