Phenserine regulates translation of β-amyloid precursor protein mRNA by a putative interleukin-1 responsive element, a target for drug development

Karen T.Y. Shaw, Tadanobu Utsuki, Jack Rogers, Qian Sheng Yu, Kumar Sambamurti, Arnold Brossi, Yuan Wen Ge, Debomoy K. Lahiri, Nigel H. Greig

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182 Scopus citations


The reduction in levels of the potentially toxic amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) has emerged as one of the most important therapeutic goals in Alzheimer's disease. Key targets for this goal are factors that affect the expression and processing of the Aβ precursor protein (βAPP). Earlier reports from our laboratory have shown that a novel cholinesterase inhibitor, phenserine, reduces βAPP levels in vivo. Herein, we studied the mechanism of phenserine's actions to define the regulatory elements in βAPP processing. Phenserine treatment resulted in decreased secretion of soluble βAPP and Aβ into the conditioned media of human neuroblastoma cells without cellular toxicity. The regulation of βAPP protein expression by phenserine was posttranscriptional as it suppressed βAPP protein expression without altering βAPP mRNA levels. However, phenserine's action was neither mediated through classical receptor signaling pathways, involving extracellular signal-regulated kinase or phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activation, nor was it associated with the anticholinesterase activity of the drug. Furthermore, phenserine reduced expression of a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter fused to the 5′-mRNA leader sequence of βAPP without altering expression of a control chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter. These studies suggest that phenserine reduces Aβ levels by regulating βAPP translation via the recently described iron regulatory element in the 5′-untranslated region of βAPP mRNA, which has been shown previously to be up-regulated in the presence of interleukin-1. This study identifies an approach for the regulation of βAPP expression that can result in a substantial reduction in the level of Aβ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7605-7610
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 19 2001

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