Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disorder among the aged worldwide. AD is characterized by extensive synaptic and neuronal loss that leads to impaired memory and cognitive decline. The cause of AD is not completely understood and no effective therapy has been developed. The accumulation of toxic amyloid-β42 (Aβ42) peptide oligomers and aggregates in AD brain has been proposed to be primarily responsible for the pathology of the disease, an idea dubbed the 'amyloid hypothesis' of AD etiology. In addition to the increase in Aβ42 levels, disturbances in neuronal calcium (Ca2+) signaling and alterations in expression levels of Ca2+ signaling proteins have been observed in animal models of familial AD and in studies of postmortem brain samples from sporadic AD patients. Based on these data, the 'Ca2+ hypothesis of AD' has been proposed. In particular, familial AD has been linked with enhanced Ca 2+ release from the endoplasmic reticulum and elevated cytosolic Ca2+ levels. The augmented cytosolic Ca2+ levels can trigger signaling cascades that affect synaptic stability and function and can be detrimental to neuronal health, such as activation of calcineurin and calpains. Here we review the latest results supporting the 'Ca2+ hypothesis' of AD pathogenesis. We further argue that over time, supranormal cytosolic Ca2+ signaling can impair mitochondrial function in AD neurons. We conclude that inhibitors and stablizers of neuronal Ca2+ signaling and mitochondrial function may have therapeutic potential for AD treatment. We also discuss latest and planned AD therapeutic trials of agents targeting Ca2+ channels and mitochondria.
- Alzheimer's disease
- endoplasmic reticulum