A critical regulator of a molecule that is very highly involved in the progression of Alzheimer's disease has now been discovered by a team of scientists.
The new study shows for the first time that levels of this regulating protein are decreased in the brains of Alzheimer's disease sufferers and that this decrease could be a significant factor in the advance of the disease.
The regulator is known as Rheb, a protein that many believe may be active in neural plasticity, the ability of the brain to change in response to learning.
In the new study, the scientists found that Rheb binds and regulates activity of a molecule known as BACE1, an important enzyme in Alzheimer's disease pathology, establishing for the first time a new molecular link between Rheb and BACE1.
Neelam Shahani, a first author of the study with William Pryor, both research associates in the Subramaniam lab, said that if they can uncover the mechanism by which Rheb alters BACE1 levels, that would be a very good drug target.
The new study indicates that Rheb degrades BACE1 through a number of pathways, but more research needs to be done before drug candidates can be developed.
Pryor said that they're very interested in the disease process and plan to keep moving forward to understand precisely how Rheb regulates BACE1.
The study has been published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.