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Neurodegener Dis. 2006;3(4-5):284-9.

Cellular functions of gamma-secretase-related proteins.

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  • 1Laboratory for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease Research, Department of Biochemistry, Adolf-Butenandt-Institute, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany. chaffner@med.uni-muenchen.de


Amyloid-beta peptide (Abeta) is generated by gamma-secretase, a membrane protein complex with an unusual aspartyl protease activity consisting of the four components presenilin, nicastrin, APH-1 and PEN-2. Presenilin is considered the catalytic subunit of this complex since it represents the prototype of the new family of intramembrane-cleaving GxGD-type aspartyl proteases. Recently, five novel members of this family and a nicastrin-like protein were identified. Whereas one of the GxGD-type proteins was shown to be identical with signal peptide peptidase (SPP), the function of the others, now called SPP-like proteins (SPPLs), is not known. We therefore analyzed SPPL2b and SPPL3 and demonstrated that they localize to different subcellular compartments suggesting nonredundant functions. This was supported by different phenotypes obtained in knockdown studies in zebrafish embryos. In addition, these phenotypes could be phenocopied by ectopic expression of putative active site mutants, providing strong evidence for a proteolytic function of SPPL2b and SPPL3. We also identified and characterized the nicastrin-like protein nicalin which, together with the 130-kDa protein NOMO (Nodal modulator), forms a membrane protein complex different from gamma-secretase. We found that during zebrafish embryogenesis this complex is involved in the patterning of the axial mesendoderm, a process controlled by the Nodal signaling pathway.

Copyright 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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