Now scientists at Northwestern University have discovered why brain insulin signaling -- crucial for memory formation -- would stop working in Alzheimer’s disease. They have shown that a toxic protein found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, rendering those neurons insulin resistant. (The protein, known to attack memory-forming synapses, is called an ADDL for “amyloid ß-derived diffusible ligand.”)
With other research showing that levels of brain insulin and its related receptors are lower in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the Northwestern study sheds light on the emerging idea of Alzheimer’s being a “type 3” diabetes.
The new findings, published online by the FASEB Journal, could help researchers determine which aspects of existing drugs now used to treat diabetic patients may protect neurons from ADDLs and improve insulin signaling in individuals with Alzheimer’s. (The FASEB Journal is a publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.)
In the brain, insulin and insulin receptors are vital to learning and memory. When insulin binds to a receptor at a synapse, it turns on a mechanism necessary for nerve cells to survive and memories to form. That Alzheimer’s disease may in part be caused by insulin resistance in the brain has scientists asking how that process gets initiated.
“We found the binding of ADDLs to synapses somehow prevents insulin receptors from accumulating at the synapses where they are needed,” said William L. Klein, professor of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, who led the research team. “Instead, they are piling up where they are made, in the cell body, near the nucleus. Insulin cannot reach receptors there. This finding is the first molecular evidence as to why nerve cells should become insulin resistant in Alzheimer’s disease.”
ADDLS are small, soluble aggregated proteins. The clinical data strongly support a theory in which ADDLs accumulate at the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease and block memory function by a process predicted to be reversible.
In earlier research, Klein and colleagues found that ADDLs bind very specifically at synapses, initiating deterioration of synapse function and causing changes in synapse composition and shape. Now Klein and his team have shown that the molecules that make memories at synapses -- insulin receptors -- are being removed by ADDLs from the surface membrane of nerve cells.
“We think this is a major factor in the memory deficiencies caused by ADDLs in Alzheimer’s brains,” said Klein, a member of Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center. “We’re dealing with a fundamental new connection between two fields, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, and the implication is for therapeutics. We want to find ways to make those insulin receptors themselves resistant to the impact of ADDLs. And that might not be so difficult.”
Using mature cultures of hippocampal neurons, Klein and his team studied synapses that have been implicated in learning and memory mechanisms. The extremely differentiated neurons can be investigated at the molecular level. The researchers studied the synapses and their insulin receptors before and after ADDLs were introduced.
They discovered the toxic protein causes a rapid and significant loss of insulin receptors from the surface of neurons specifically on dendrites to which ADDLs are bound. ADDL binding clearly damages the trafficking of the insulin receptors, preventing them from getting to the synapses. The researchers measured the neuronal response to insulin and found that it was greatly inhibited by ADDLs.
“In addition to finding that neurons with ADDL binding showed a virtual absence of insulin receptors on their dendrites, we also found that dendrites with an abundance of insulin receptors showed no ADDL binding,” said co-author Fernanda G. De Felice, a visiting scientist from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro who is working in Klein’s lab. “These factors suggest that insulin resistance in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s is a response to ADDLs.”
“With proper research and development the drug arsenal for type 2 diabetes, in which individuals become insulin resistant, may be translated to Alzheimer’s treatment,” said Klein. “I think such drugs could supercede currently available Alzheimer’s drugs.”
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy