Membrane rafts are sterol- and sphingolipid-enriched domains that compartmentalize cellular processes. Membrane rafts isolated from post-mortem AD brain are enriched in both β-amyloid and phosphorylated tau. Proteolytic processing of APP to generate β-amyloid, the principle component of amyloid plaques, can occur in membrane rafts, implicating them in the pathogenesis of Alzheimers disease (AD). Secondary to their role in β-amyloid generation, membrane rafts have more recently been implicated in the accumulation, aggregation and degradation of β-amyloid, with evidence supporting a specific role for membrane raft gangliosides in the binding and aggregation of β-amyloid. In addition, membrane domain composition has a direct impact on both the generation of β-amyloid and its subsequent toxic actions and as such is a key target for the development of therapeutic strategies. This mini-review will focus on recent advances in our understanding of the relevance of membrane composition, of both raft and non-raft domains, to AD progression in models and in human disease. We will discuss how manipulation of membrane composition can alter both the proteolytic processing of APP and the subsequent binding and aggregation of β-amyloid peptide.
Amyloid, cholesterol, lipid, membrane raft
Biomedical Research Institute, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee DD1 9SY, Scotland, United Kingdom.