Alzheimer's Disease: A Heme-Aβ Perspective

Chandradeep Ghosh, Manas Seal, Soumya Mukherjee, Somdatta Ghosh Dey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


ConspectusRedox active iron is utilized in biology for various electron transfer and catalytic reactions essential for life, yet this same chemistry mediates the formation of partially reduced oxygen species (PROS). Oxidative stress derived from the iron accumulated in the amyloid plaques originating from amyloid β (Aβ) peptides and neurofibrillary tangles derived from hyperphosphorylated tau proteins has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Altered heme homeostasis leading to dysregulation of expression of heme proteins and heme deposits in the amyloid plaques are characteristic of the AD brain. However, the pathogenic significance of heme in neurodegeneration in AD has been unappreciated due to the lack of detailed understanding of the chemistry of the interaction of heme and Aβ peptides. As a result, the biochemistry and biophysics of heme complexes of Aβ peptides (heme-Aβ) remained largely unexplored.In this Account, we discuss the active site environment of heme bound Aβ complexes, which involves three amino acid residues unique in mammalian Aβ (Arg5, Tyr10, and His13) and missing in Aβ from rodents, which do not get affected by AD. The histidine residue binds heme, while the arginine and the tyrosine act as key second sphere residues of the heme-Aβ active site that play a crucial role in its reactivity. Generation of PROS, enhanced peroxidase activity, and oxidation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin (5-HT) are all found to be catalyzed by heme-Aβ in in vitro assays, and these reactivities can potentially be linked to the observed neuropathologies in AD brain. Association of Cu with heme-Aβ leads to the formation of heme-Cu-Aβ. The heme-Cu-Aβ complex produces a greater amount of PROS than reduced heme-Aβ or Cu-Aβ alone. Nitric oxide (NO), a signaling molecule, is found to ameliorate the detrimental effects of heme-Aβ and Cu bound heme-Aβ complexes by detaching heme from the heme-Aβ complex and releasing it into the environment solution. Heme-Aβ complexes show fast electron transfer with oxidized cytochrome c and rapid heme transfer with apomyoglobin and aponeuroglobin. NO, cytochrome c, and apoglobins can all lead to reduction in PROS generated by reduced heme-Aβ. Synthetic analogues of heme, offering a hydrophobic distal environment, have been used to trap oxygen bound intermediates, which provides insight into the mechanism of PROS generation by reduced heme-Aβ. Artificial constructs of Aβ on nonbiological platforms are used not only to stabilize metastable and physiologically relevant large and small amyloid aggregates but also to monitor the interaction of various drug candidates with heme and Cu bound Aβ aggregates, representing a tractable avenue for testing therapeutic agents targeting metals and cofactors in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2556-2564
Number of pages9
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 15 2015


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