Numb modifies neuronal vulnerability to amyloid β-peptide in an isoform-specific manner by a mechanism involving altered calcium homeostasis: Implications for neuronal death in Alzheimer's disease

Sic L. Chan, Ward A. Pedersen, Hiayan Zhu, Mark P. Mattson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Increased production of neurotoxic forms of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) and abnormalities in neuronal calcium homeostasis play central roles in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Notch, a membrane receptor that controls cell-fate decisions during development of the nervous system, has been linked to AD because it is a substrate for the γ-secretase enzyme activity that involves the presenilin-1 (PS1) protein in which mutations cause early-onset inherited AD. The actions of Notch can be antagonized by Numb, an evolutionarily conserved protein that exists in four isoforms that differ in two functional domains: a phosphotyrosine-binding (PTB) domain and a proline-rich region (PRR). We now report that Numb isoforms containing a short PTB domain increase the vulnerability of PC12 cells to death induced by Aβ1-42 and by 4-hydroxynonenal, a lipid peroxidation product previously shown to mediate neurotoxic effects of Aβ. Dysregulation of cellular calcium homeostasis occurs in cells expressing Numb isoforms with a short PTB domain, and the death-promoting effect of Numb is abolished by pharmacological inhibition of calcium release. The levels of Numb are increased in cultured primary hippocampal neurons exposed to Aβ, suggesting a role for endogenous Numb in the neuronal death process. Furthermore, higher levels of Numb were detected in the cortex of mice expressing mutant amyloid precursor protein (APP) relative to age-matched wild-type mice. Our data identify a novel isoform-specific effect of Numb on neuronal life and death cell fate decisions potentially relevant to the pathogenesis of AD. Our findings also suggest that the effects of Numb on cell fate decisions, both during development of the nervous system and in neurodegenertive disorders, are mediated by changes in cellular calcium homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-67
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroMolecular Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002



  • Apoptosis
  • Calcium
  • Learning and memory
  • Neurotrophic factor
  • NMDA
  • Patch clamp
  • Staurosporine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology

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