The death of cholinergic neurons in the cerebral cortex and certain subcortical regions is linked to irreversible dementia relevant to AD (Alzheimer's disease). Although multiple studies have shown that expression of a FAD (familial AD)-linked APP (amyloid β precursor protein) or a PS (presenilin) mutant, but not that of wild-type APP or PS, induced neuronal death by activating intracellular death signals, it remains to be addressed how these signals are interrelated and what the key molecule involved in this process is. In the present study, we show that the PS1-mediated (or possibly the PS2-mediated) signal is essential for the APP-mediated death in a γ-secretase-independent manner and vice versa. MOCA (modifier of cell adhesion), which was originally identified as being a PS- and Rac1-binding protein, is a common downstream constituent of these neuronal death signals. Detailed molecular analysis indicates that MOCA is a key molecule of the AD-relevant neuronal death signals that links the PS-mediated death signal with the APP-mediated death signal at a point between Rac1 [or Cdc42 (cell division cycle 42)] and ASK1 (apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1).

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