Indexed on: 08 Feb '07Published on: 08 Feb '07Published in: Journal of Biological Chemistry
Alzheimer disease is characterized by the abnormal aggregation of amyloid beta peptide into extracellular fibrillar deposits known as amyloid plaques. Soluble oligomers have been observed at early time points preceding fibril formation, and these oligomers have been implicated as the primary pathological species rather than the mature fibrils. A significant issue that remains to be resolved is whether amyloid oligomers are an obligate intermediate on the pathway to fibril formation or represent an alternate assembly pathway that may or may not lead to fiber formation. To determine whether amyloid beta oligomers are obligate intermediates in the fibrillization pathway, we characterized the mechanism of action of amyloid beta aggregation inhibitors in terms of oligomer and fibril formation. Based on their effects, the small molecules segregated into three distinct classes: compounds that inhibit oligomerization but not fibrillization, compounds that inhibit fibrillization but not oligomerization, and compounds that inhibit both. Several compounds selectively inhibited oligomerization at substoichiometric concentrations relative to amyloid beta monomer, with some active in the low nanomolar range. These results indicate that oligomers are not an obligate intermediate in the fibril formation pathway. In addition, these data suggest that small molecule inhibitors are useful for clarifying the mechanisms underlying protein aggregation and may represent potential therapeutic agents that target fundamental disease mechanisms.