An agnostic reevaluation of the amyloid cascade hypothesis of Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis: The role of APP homeostasis

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5 Scopus citations


Objective: To reassess the role of amyloid beta (Aβ) and the amyloid precursor protein (APP) system in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Background: APP is a cell adhesion molecule that has been highly conserved over the course of phylogeny that has critical roles in brain development, synaptic plasticity, and the brain's intrinsic immune system. The amyloid cascade hypothesis describes a relatively linear, deterministic sequence of events triggered by a gain of Aβ peptide fragment toxicity that results in neurodegeneration and cognitive loss, yet well designed immunotherapy and beta secretase inhibitor trials that have successfully targeted Aβ have failed to have any consistent effects on the steady decline of cognition. New/updated hypothesis: Mutations of the APP and presenilin genes not only alter the ratio of longer to shorter Aβ fragments (resulting in a gain of Aβ toxicity), but also disrupt the normal homeostatic roles of their respective proteins. The evolutionary history, physiological importance, and complexity of the APP and presenilin systems, as well as other critical components including tau and apolipoprotein E (APOE) imply that altered function of such systems could have severe consequences that include but need not be limited to a gain of Aβ toxicity and would more generally result in altered homeostasis of APP-related functions. Major challenges addressed by our hypothesis: Challenges that a loss of APP homeostasis addresses better than the more limited gain of Aβ toxicity model include the topographic mismatches between Aβ and tau pathology, the profile and chronology of cognitive and biomarker changes that precede the clinical expression of mild cognitive impairment and dementia, and the disappointments of Aβ targeted therapeutics among others. Linkage to other major theories: The importance of APP, α- and β-secretases, the presenilins and γ-secretase, as well as tau was recognized by the authors of the amyloid cascade hypothesis, and has since led multiple investigators to propose alternative, more balanced hypotheses including reduced homeostasis and frank loss-of-function of key components that include but go beyond the currently envisioned linear model of Aβ toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1582-1590
Number of pages9
JournalAlzheimer's and Dementia
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • aging
  • amyloid hypothesis
  • amyloid precursor protein homeostasis
  • late onset Alzheimer's disease
  • young onset Alzheimer's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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