There is growing evidence that mild cognitive impairment in early AD (Alzheimer's disease) may be due to synaptic dysfunction caused by the accumulation of non-fibrillar, oligomeric Aβ (amyloid β-peptide), long before widespread synaptic loss and neurodegeneration occurs. Soluble Aβ oligomers can rapidly disrupt synaptic memory mechanisms at extremely low concentrations via stress-activated kinases and oxidative/nitrosative stress mediators. Here, we summarize experiments that investigated whether certain putative receptors for Aβ, the αv integrin extracellular cell matrix-binding protein and the cytokine TNFα (tumour necrosis factor α) type-1 death receptor mediate Aβ oligomer-induced inhibition of LTP (long-term potentiation). Ligands that neutralize TNFα or genetic knockout of TNF-R1s (type-1 TNFα receptors) prevented Aβ-triggered inhibition of LTP in hippocampal slices. Similarly, antibodies to αv-containing integrins abrogated LTP block by Aβ. Protection against the synaptic plasticity-disruptive effects of soluble Aβ was also achieved using systemically administered small molecules targeting these mechanisms in vivo. Taken together, this research lends support to therapeutic trials of drugs antagonizing synaptic plasticity-disrupting actions of Aβ oligomers in preclinical AD.

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