Protein fibrillization is implicated in the pathogenesis of most, if not all, age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, but the mechanism(s) by which it triggers neuronal death is unknown. Reductionist in vitro studies suggest that the amyloid protofibril may be the toxic species and that it may amplify itself by inhibiting proteasome-dependent protein degradation. Although its pathogenic target has not been identified, the properties of the protofibril suggest that neurons could be killed by unregulated membrane permeabilization, possibly by a type of protofibril referred to here as the 'amyloid pore'. The purpose of this review is to summarize the existing supportive circumstantial evidence and to stimulate further studies designed to test the validity of this hypothesis.
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