Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has become one of the deadliest diseases for human beings with special incidence in elderly population. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease and the most prevalent cause of dementia. The neuropathology of AD has not been fully elucidated yet, however, cholinergic hypothesis is the most accepted theory nowadays, resulting from the cholinergic deficit emerging in the brains of AD patients. Shortage of the neurotransmitters, acetylcholine and butyrylcholine has been demonstrated, and therefore, inhibition of the enzymes; acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) that break down acetylcholine and butyrylcholine has become a standard approach for AD treatment. However, cholinesterase inhibitors are only effective in symptomatic treatment and have no ability to impede the disease. The pathogenesis of AD is highly complex and another hypothesis is the formation of amyloid plaques containing beta-amyloid peptide, which causes neurolesions in the brains of AD patients. Beta-amyloid peptide is generated after the sequential cleavage of amyloid precursor protein, especially by the beta- and gamma-secretase in the amyloidogenic pathway. The secretases involved in the processing of amyloid precursor protein are of particular interest and, consequently, the inhibition of secretase enzyme family of protease type has become another desired treatment strategy for AD. On the other hand, medicinal plants are attractive sources for drug research and development as they produce chemically-varying molecules with preferred biological activities. The aim of this article is to review the available data on selected inhibitors from plant secondary metabolites with emphasis on cholinesterase, prolyl endopeptidase, and secretase enzyme families as being the current treatments of AD.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, cholinesterase, prolyl endopeptidase, secretase, enzyme inhibition, medicinal plants