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Is Alzheimer's Disease a Disorder of Mitochondria-Associated Membranes?


The subcellular localization of presenilin-1 (PS1) and presenilin-2 (PS2), two proteins that, when mutated, cause familial Alzheimer's disease (AD), is controversial. We have discovered that mitochondria-associated membranes (MAM) – a specialized subcompartment of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) involved in lipid metabolism and calcium homeostasis that physically connects ER to mitochondria – is the predominant subcellular location for PS1 and PS2, and for γ-secretase activity. We hypothesize that presenilins play a role in maintaining MAM function, and that not only altered amyloid-β levels and hyperphosphorylated tau, but also many other features of AD (e.g., altered phospholipid and cholesterol metabolism, aberrant calcium homeostasis, and abnormal mitochondrial dynamics) result from compromised MAM function. The localization of presenilins and γ-secretase in MAM may help reconcile disparate ideas regarding the pathogenesis of AD, under a unifying hypothesis that could explain many features of both sporadic and familial AD, thereby taking AD research in a new and fruitful direction.