Remembering your A, B, C's: Alzheimer's disease and ABCA1

Cutler T. Lewandowski, Megan S. Laham, Gregory R.J. Thatcher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The function of ATP binding cassette protein A1 (ABCA1) is central to cholesterol mobilization. Reduced ABCA1 expression or activity is implicated in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other disorders. Therapeutic approaches to boost ABCA1 activity have yet to be translated successfully to the clinic. The risk factors for AD development and progression, including comorbid disorders such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, highlight the intersection of cholesterol transport and inflammation. Upregulation of ABCA1 can positively impact APOE lipidation, insulin sensitivity, peripheral vascular and blood–brain barrier integrity, and anti-inflammatory signaling. Various strategies towards ABCA1-boosting compounds have been described, with a bias toward nuclear hormone receptor (NHR) agonists. These agonists display beneficial preclinical effects; however, important side effects have limited development. In particular, ligands that bind liver X receptor (LXR), the primary NHR that controls ABCA1 expression, have shown positive effects in AD mouse models; however, lipogenesis and unwanted increases in triglyceride production are often observed. The longstanding approach, focusing on LXRβ vs. LXRα selectivity, is over-simplistic and has failed. Novel approaches such as phenotypic screening may lead to small molecule NHR modulators that elevate ABCA1 function without inducing lipogenesis and are clinically translatable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)995-1018
Number of pages24
JournalActa Pharmaceutica Sinica B
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cholesterol
  • Drug discovery
  • Liver X receptor
  • Nuclear hormone receptor
  • Type 2 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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