The amyloid-β42 (Aβ42) peptide has been suggested to play a causative role in Alzheimer disease (AD). Neprilysin (NEP) is one of the rate-limiting Aβ-degrading enzymes, and its enhancement ameliorates extracellular amyloid pathology, synaptic dysfunction, and memory defects in mouse models of Aβ amyloidosis. In addition to the extracellular Aβ, intraneuronal Aβ42 may contribute to AD pathogenesis. However, the protective effects of neuronal NEP expression on intraneuronal Aβ42 accumulation and neurodegeneration remain elusive. In contrast, sustained NEP activation may be detrimental because NEP can degrade many physiological peptides, but its consequences in the brain are not fully understood. Using transgenic Drosophila expressing human NEP and Aβ42, we demonstrated that NEP efficiently suppressed the formation of intraneuronal Aβ42 deposits and Aβ42-induced neuron loss. However, neuronal NEP overexpression reduced cAMP-responsive element-binding protein-mediated transcription, caused age-dependent axon degeneration, and shortened the life span of the flies. Interestingly, the mRNA levels of endogenous fly NEP genes and phosphoramidon-sensitive NEP activity declined during aging in fly brains, as observed in mammals. Taken together, these data suggest both the protective and detrimental effects of chronically high NEP activity in the brain. Down-regulation of NEP activity in aging brains may be an evolutionarily conserved phenomenon, which could predispose humans to developing late-onset AD.
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