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Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

Houston, Texas

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center
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Role of APP in Synaptic Regulation

Proteolytic cleavages of the a myloid precursor protein (APP) generate beta-amyloid peptides (Ab). Although beta-amyloid pathology is the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD), synaptic dysfunction is believed to play a primary role in AD pathogenesis. Since Ab is produced as part of APP processing, understanding the mechanisms of APP and its processing products in synaptic function, and investigating the effects of Ab in the context of APP are of crucial importance. Whereas various neuronal and synaptic activities of APP have been proposed, their physiological relevance remains largely unestablished. To this end, we generated mice deficient in APP and reported that APP plays a functional role in hippocampal synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. We recently created a strain of APP conditional knockout mice. Analysis of these animals demonstrates an essential role for the APP family of proteins in neuronal survival and synaptic structure and function. Intriguingly, APP- mediated synaptogenic activity requires its expression in both pre- and postsynaptic compartments, supporting a functional interaction of APP across synapse. Our proposal is aimed at testing this trans- synaptic APP interaction model, deciphering the activities of APP processing products, including Ab, in APP-mediated synaptic property, and identifying the APP downstream targets using a combination of state-of-the-art in vitro technologies and physiological and disease-relevant mouse models.

Relevance of the project to IDDRC mission:

APP plays a central role in AD pathogenesis; synaptic dysfunction is widely accepted as the primary cause of AD. Our recent finding that APP may function as a synaptic adhesion protein and that APP family of proteins is essential for the maintenance of adult neurons open up a new and exciting direction for achieving a fundamental understanding of the pathophysiology of APP.

Accordingly, determining the molecular and cellular mechanisms of APP in neuronal and synaptic regulation and investigating the effect of Ab in the context of APP using physiological and disease relevant mouse model systems as proposed represent a novel and much needed area of AD research. Our studies will provide a comprehensive understanding of the role of APP in synaptic regulation and reveal new pathogenic insights into Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome.

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