Humanin (HN) is a novel neuroprotective factor that consists of 24 amino acid residues. HN suppresses neuronal cell death caused by Alzheimer's disease (AD)-specific insults, including both amyloid-β (βAβ) peptides and familial AD-causative genes. Cerebrovascular smooth muscle cells are also protected from Aβ toxicity by HN, suggesting that HN affects both neuronal and non-neuronal cells when they are exposed to AD-related cytotoxicity. HN peptide exerts a neuroprotective effect through the cell surface via putative receptor(s). HN activates a cellular signaling cascade that intervenes (at least) in activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase. The highly selective effect of HN on AD-relevant cell death indicates that HN is promising for AD therapy. Additionally, a recent study showed that intracellularly overexpressed HN suppressed mitochondriamediated apoptosis by inhibiting Bax activity.
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