Review Article


, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 399-408

First online:

β-Secretase as a therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease

  • Arun K. GhoshAffiliated withDepartments of Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry, Purdue University
  • , Sandra GemmaAffiliated withDepartments of Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry, Purdue University
  • , Jordan TangAffiliated withOklahoma Medical Research Foundation, University of Oklahoma Health Science CenterDepartment of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Oklahoma Health Science CenterProtein Studies Research Program, MS 28, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation Email author 


β-Secretase (memapsin 2, BACE1) is an attractive target for the development of inhibitor drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Not only does this protease function at the first step in the pathway leading to the production of amyloid-β (Aβ), its gene deletion produces only mild phenotypes. In addition, β-secretase is an aspartic protease whose mechanism and inhibition are well known. The development of β-secretase inhibitors, actively pursued over the last seven years, has been slow, due to the difficulty in combining the required properties in a single inhibitor molecule. Steady progress in this field, however, has brought about inhibitors that contain many targeted characteristics. In this review, we describe the strategy of structure-based inhibitor evolution in the development of β-secretase inhibitor drug. The current status of the field offers grounds for some optimism, in that β-secretase inhibitors have been shown to reduce brain Aβ and to rescue the cognitive decline in transgenic AD mice, and an orally available β-secretase inhibitor drug candidate is in clinical trial. With this knowledge base, it seems reasonable to expect that more drug candidates will be tested in human, and then successful disease-modifying drugs may ultimately emerge from this target.

Key Words

β-secretase amyloid precursor protein secretase inhibitor drug Alzheimer’s disease