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Amyloid-beta peptides generated by β-secretase- and γ-secretase-mediated successive cleavage of amyloid precursor protein are believed to play a causative role in Alzheimer's disease. Thus, reducing amyloid-beta generation by modulating γ-secretase remains a promising approach for Alzheimer's disease therapeutic development. Here, we screened fruit extracts of Ligustrum lucidum Ait. (Oleaceae) and identified active fractions that increase the C-terminal fragment of amyloid precursor protein and reduce amyloid-beta production in a neuronal cell line. These fractions contain a mixture of two isomeric pentacyclic triterpene natural products, 3-O-cis- or 3-O-trans-p-coumaroyl maslinic acid (OCMA), in different ratios. We further demonstrated that trans-OCMA specifically inhibits γ-secretase and decreases amyloid-beta levels without influencing cleavage of Notch. By using photoactivatable probes targeting the subsites residing in the γ-secretase active site, we demonstrated that trans-OCMA selectively affects the S1 subsite of the active site in this protease. Treatment of Alzheimer's disease transgenic model mice with trans-OCMA or an analogous carbamate derivative of a related pentacyclic triterpene natural product, oleanolic acid, rescued the impairment of synaptic plasticity. This work indicates that the naturally occurring compound trans-OCMA and its analogues could become a promising class of small molecules for Alzheimer's disease treatment.


Wenjie Luo, Fanny C F Ip, Guangmiao Fu, Kit Cheung, Yuan Tian, Yueqing Hu, Anjana Sinha, Elaine Y L Cheng, Xianzhong Wu, Victor Bustos, Paul Greengard, Yue-Ming Li, Subhash C Sinha, Nancy Y Ip. A Pentacyclic Triterpene from Ligustrum lucidum Targets γ-Secretase. ACS chemical neuroscience. 2020 Sep 16;11(18):2827-2835

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PMID: 32786303

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