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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jan 30;279(5):3685-93. Epub 2003 Oct 30.

Membrane topology and nicastrin-enhanced endoproteolysis of APH-1, a component of the gamma-secretase complex.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


APH-1, presenilin, nicastrin, and Pen-2 are proteins with varying membrane topologies that compose the gamma-secretase complex, which is responsible for the intramembrane proteolysis of several substrates including the amyloid precursor protein. APH-1 is known to be necessary for gamma-secretase activity, but its precise function in the complex is not fully understood, and its membrane topology has not been described, although it is predicted to traverse the membrane seven times. To investigate this, we used selective permeabilization of the plasma membrane and immunofluorescence microscopy to show that the C terminus of the APH-1 resides in the cytosolic space. Insertion of N-linked glycosylation sites into each of the hydrophilic loop domains and the N terminus of APH-1 showed that the N-terminal domain as well as loops 2, 4, and 6 could be glycosylated, whereas loops 1, 3, and 5 were not. Thus, APH-1 topologically resembles a seven-transmembrane domain receptor with the N terminus and even-numbered loops facing the endoplasmic reticulum lumen, and the C terminus and odd-numbered loops reside in the cytosolic space. By using these glycosylation mutants, we provide evidence that the association between nicastrin and APH-1 may occur very soon after APH-1 synthesis and that the interaction between these two proteins may rely more heavily on the transmembrane domains of APH-1 than on the loop domains. Furthermore, we found that APH-1 can be processed by several endoproteolytic events. One of these cleavages is strongly up-regulated by co-expression of nicastrin and generates a stable C-terminal fragment that associates with nicastrin.

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