Altered mitochondria, energy metabolism, voltage-dependent anion channel, and lipid rafts converge to exhaust neurons in Alzheimer’s disease
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- Ferrer, I. J Bioenerg Biomembr (2009) 41: 425. doi:10.1007/s10863-009-9243-5
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β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition, in the form of plaques and amyloid angiopathy, and hyper-phosphorylated tau deposition forming neurofibrillary tangles, dystrophic neurites around β-amyloid plaques and neuropil threads, are neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that accumulate in the brain with disease progression. These changes are accompanied by progressive loss of synapses and nerve cell death. Progressive cognitive impairment and dementia are the main neurological deficits. In addition, there is cumulative evidence demonstrating other metabolic disturbances that impair cell function and hamper neuron viability. The main components of the mitochondria are altered: complex IV of the respiratory chain is reduced; complex V which metabolizes ADP to form ATP is oxidatively damaged and functionally altered; and voltage-dependent anion channel VDAC, a major component of the outer mitochondrial membrane that regulates ion fluxes, is damaged as a result of oxidative stress. Mitochondria are a major source of reactive oxygen species that promote oxidative damage to DNA, RNA, proteins and lipids. Protein targets of oxidative damage are, among others, several enzymatic components of the glycolysis, lipid metabolism and cycle of the citric acid that fuel oxidative phosphorylation, mitochondrial respiration and energy production. The lipid composition of lipid rafts, key membrane specializations that facilitate the transfer of substrates, and protein-protein and lipid-protein interactions, is altered as a result of the abnormally low levels of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (mainly docosahexaenoic acid) that increase viscosity and augment energy consumption. Abnormal lipid raft composition may also modify the activity of key enzymes that modulate the cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein to form toxic Aβ. This is further complicated by the disruption of the complex VDAC with estrogen receptor α at the caveolae which participates, under physiological conditions, in the protection against β-amyloid. Together, all these alterations converge in reduced energy production and increased energy demands in altered cells. Cell exhaustion is suggested as being a determining element to interpret impaired neuron function, reduced molecular turnover, and enhanced cell death.