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PLoS One. 2009;4(4):e5088. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005088. Epub 2009 Apr 7.

Gender- and age-dependent gamma-secretase activity in mouse brain and its implication in sporadic Alzheimer disease.

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  • 1Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, United States of America.


Alzheimer disease (AD) is an age-related disorder. Aging and female gender are two important risk factors associated with sporadic AD. However, the mechanism by which aging and gender contribute to the pathogenesis of sporadic AD is unclear. It is well known that genetic mutations in gamma-secretase result in rare forms of early onset AD due to the aberrant production of Abeta42 peptides, which are the major constituents of senile plaques. However, the effect of age and gender on gamma-secretase has not been fully investigated. Here, using normal wild-type mice, we show mouse brain gamma-secretase exhibits gender- and age-dependent activity. Both male and female mice exhibit increased Abeta42ratioAbeta40 ratios in aged brain, which mimics the effect of familial mutations of Presenilin-1, Presenlin-2, and the amyloid precursor protein on Abeta production. Additionally, female mice exhibit much higher gamma-secretase activity in aged brain compared to male mice. Furthermore, both male and female mice exhibit a steady decline in Notch1 gamma-secretase activity with aging. Using a small molecule affinity probe we demonstrate that male mice have less active gamma-secretase complexes than female mice, which may account for the gender-associated differences in activity in aged brain. These findings demonstrate that aging can affect gamma-secretase activity and specificity, suggesting a role for gamma-secretase in sporadic AD. Furthermore, the increased APP gamma-secretase activity seen in aged females may contribute to the increased incidence of sporadic AD in women and the aggressive Abeta plaque pathology seen in female mouse models of AD. In addition, deceased Notch gamma-secretase activity may also contribute to neurodegeneration. Therefore, this study implicates altered gamma-secretase activity and specificity as a possible mechanism of sporadic AD during aging.

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