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J Neurosci. 2010 Apr 28;30(17):6132-42. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5874-09.2010.

Identification of Caspase-6-mediated processing of the valosin containing protein (p97) in Alzheimer's disease: a novel link to dysfunction in ubiquitin proteasome system-mediated protein degradation.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec H3T 1E2, Canada.


The valosin-containing protein (p97) is a ubiquitin-dependent ATPase that plays central roles in ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS)-mediated protein degradation pathways. p97 has been recently identified as a putative substrate of active Caspase-6 (Casp6) in primary human neurons. Since Casp6 is activated in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients' brains, the targeting of p97 by Casp6 may represent an important step that leads to UPS impairment in AD. Here, we show that p97 is a Casp6 substrate in vitro and in vivo. Casp6 cleavage of recombinant p97 generated two N-terminal fragments of 28 and 20 kDa, which were not generated by the other two effector caspases, Caspase-3 and Caspase-7. ATP binding to the D1 ATPase ring of p97 reduced the susceptibility of the N-domain to caspase-mediated proteolysis. Mass spectrometric analysis identified VAPD(179) as a Casp6 cleavage site within p97's N-domain. An anti-neoepitope serum immunohistochemically detected p97 cleaved at VAPD(179) in the cytoplasm of the cell soma and neurites of hippocampal neurons in MCI and AD. Overexpression of p97 (1-179) fragment, representing p97 cleaved at D179, impaired the degradation of model substrates in the ubiquitin-fusion degradation and the N-end rule pathways, and destabilized endogenous p97. Collectively, these results show that p97 is cleaved by Casp6 in AD and suggest p97 cleavage as an important mechanism for UPS impairment.

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