Developing β-secretase inhibitors for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jordan Tang, Protein Studies Program, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Oklahoma City, OK, USA. E-mail:


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.