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Clusterin (CLU) or APOJ is a multifunctional glycoprotein that has been implicated in several physiological and pathological states, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). With a prominent extracellular chaperone function, additional roles have been discussed for clusterin, including lipid transport and immune modulation, and it is involved in pathways common to several diseases such as cell death and survival, oxidative stress, and proteotoxic stress. Although clusterin is normally a secreted protein, it has also been found intracellularly under certain stress conditions. Multiple hypotheses have been proposed regarding the origin of intracellular clusterin, including specific biogenic processes leading to alternative transcripts and protein isoforms, but these lines of research are incomplete and contradictory. Current consensus is that intracellular clusterin is most likely to have exited the secretory pathway at some point or to have re-entered the cell after secretion. Clusterin's relationship with amyloid beta (Aβ) has been of great interest to the AD field, including clusterin's apparent role in altering Aβ aggregation and/or clearance. Additionally, clusterin has been more recently identified as a mediator of Aβ toxicity, as evidenced by the neuroprotective effect of CLU knockdown and knockout in rodent and human iPSC-derived neurons. CLU is also the third most significant genetic risk factor for late onset AD and several variants have been identified in CLU. Although the exact contribution of these variants to altered AD risk is unclear, some have been linked to altered CLU expression at both mRNA and protein levels, altered cognitive and memory function, and altered brain structure. The apparent complexity of clusterin's biogenesis, the lack of clarity over the origin of the intracellular clusterin species, and the number of pathophysiological functions attributed to clusterin have all contributed to the challenge of understanding the role of clusterin in AD pathophysiology. Here, we highlight clusterin's relevance to AD by discussing the evidence linking clusterin to AD, as well as drawing parallels on how the role of clusterin in other diseases and pathways may help us understand its biological function(s) in association with AD.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Neurosci

Publication Date





DKK1, Wnt signaling, amyloid, cell death, neurodegeneration, neuroprotection, oxidative stress