J. Neurochem. (2012) 120 (Suppl. 1), 71–83.
β-Secretase (memapsin 2; BACE-1) is the first protease in the processing of amyloid precursor protein leading to the production of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the brain. It is believed that high levels of brain Aβ are responsible for the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Therefore, β-secretase is a major therapeutic target for the development of inhibitor drugs. During the past decade, steady progress has been made in the evolution of β-secretase inhibitors toward better drug properties. Recent inhibitors are potent, selective and have been shown to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to inhibit Aβ levels in the brains of experimental animals. Moreover, continuous administration of a β-secretase inhibitor was shown to rescue age-related cognitive decline in transgenic AD mice. A small number of β-secretase inhibitors have also entered early phase clinical trials. These developments offer some optimism for the clinical development of a disease-modifying drug for AD.