Amyloid β peptide (Aβ) has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease (AD) as an initiator of the pathological cascades. Several lines of compelling evidence have supported major roles of Aβ-degrading enzyme neprilysin in the pathogenesis of sporadic AD. Here, we have shown a substantial reduction of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) neprilysin activity (CSF-NEP) in patients with AD-converted mild cognitive impairment and early AD as compared with age-matched control subjects. The altered CSF-NEP likely reflects changes in neuronal neprilysin, since transfer of neprilysin from brain tissue into CSF was demonstrated by injecting neprilysin-carrying viral vector into the brains of neprilysin-deficient mice. Interestingly, CSF-NEP showed an elevation with the progression of AD. Along with a close association of CSF-NEP with CSF tau proteins, this finding suggests that presynaptically located neprilysin can be released into CSF as a consequence of synaptic disruption. The impact of neuronal damages on CSF-NEP was further demonstrated by a prominent increase of CSF-NEP in rats exhibiting kainate-induced neurodegeneration. Our results unequivocally indicate significance of CSF-NEP as a biochemical indicator to pursue a pathological process that involves decreased neprilysin activity and Aβ-induced synaptic toxicity, and the support the potential benefits of neprilysin up-regulation in ameliorating neuropathology in prodromal and early AD.
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