Abbreviations used: Aβ, β-amyloid; ACT, α1-antichymotrypsin; AD, Alzheimer's disease; apo E, apolipoprotein E; APP, β-amyloid precursor protein; BSA, bovine serum albumin; ECL, enhanced chemiluminescence; LDL, low-density lipoprotein; LRP, LDL receptor-related protein; α2M, α2-macroglobulin; α2M*, methylamine-activated α2-macroglobulin; PAGE, polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; RAGE, receptor for advanced glycation end products; RAP, receptor-associated protein; SDS, sodium dodecyl sulfate.
Abstract: A primary histopathological feature of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation of β-amyloid (Aβ) in the brain of afflicted individuals. However, Aβ is produced continuously as a soluble protein in healthy individuals where it is detected in serum and CSF, suggesting the existence of cellular clearance mechanisms that normally prevent its accumulation and aggregation. Here, we demonstrate that Aβ forms stable complexes with activated α2-macroglobulin (α2M⋆), a physiological ligand for the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP) that is abundantly expressed in the CNS. These α2M⋆/125I-Aβ complexes are immunoreactive with both anti-Aβ and anti-α2M IgG and are stable under various pH conditions, sodium dodecyl sulfate, reducing agents, and boiling. We demonstrate that α2M⋆/125I-Aβ complexes can be degraded by glioblastoma cells and fibroblasts via LRP, because degradation is partially inhibited by receptor-associated protein (RAP), an antagonist of ligand interactions with LRP. In contrast, the degradation of free 125I-Aβ is not inhibited by RAP and thus must be mediated via an LRP-independent pathway. These results suggest that LRP can function as a clearance receptor for Aβ via a physiological ligand.