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J Biol Chem. 2011 Mar 11;286(10):8106-16. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.134692. Epub 2010 Dec 29.

Reduced sodium channel Na(v)1.1 levels in BACE1-null mice.

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  • 1Neurobiology of Disease Laboratory, Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Massachusetts General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


The Alzheimer BACE1 enzyme cleaves numerous substrates, with largely unknown physiological consequences. We have previously identified the contribution of elevated BACE1 activity to voltage-gated sodium channel Na(v)1.1 density and neuronal function. Here, we analyzed physiological changes in sodium channel metabolism in BACE1-null mice. Mechanistically, we first confirmed that endogenous BACE1 requires its substrate, the β-subunit Na(v)β(2), to regulate levels of the pore-forming α-subunit Na(v)1.1 in cultured primary neurons. Next, we analyzed sodium channel α-subunit levels in brains of BACE1-null mice at 1 and 3 months of age. At both ages, we found that Na(v)1.1 protein levels were significantly decreased in BACE1-null versus wild-type mouse brains, remaining unchanged in BACE1-heterozygous mouse brains. Interestingly, levels of Na(v)1.2 and Na(v)1.6 α-subunits also decreased in 1-month-old BACE1-null mice. In the hippocampus of BACE1-null mice, we found a robust 57% decrease of Na(v)1.1 levels. Next, we performed surface biotinylation studies in acutely dissociated hippocampal slices from BACE1-null mice. Hippocampal surface Na(v)1.1 levels were significantly decreased, but Na(v)1.2 surface levels were increased in BACE1-null mice perhaps as a compensatory mechanism for reduced surface Na(v)1.1. We also found that Na(v)β(2) processing and Na(v)1.1 mRNA levels were significantly decreased in brains of BACE1-null mice. This suggests a mechanism consistent with BACE1 activity regulating mRNA levels of the α-subunit Na(v)1.1 via cleavage of cell-surface Na(v)β(2). Together, our data show that endogenous BACE1 activity regulates total and surface levels of voltage-gated sodium channels in mouse brains. Both decreased Na(v)1.1 and elevated surface Na(v)1.2 may result in a seizure phenotype. Our data caution that therapeutic BACE1 activity inhibition in Alzheimer disease patients may affect Na(v)1 metabolism and alter neuronal membrane excitability in Alzheimer disease patients.

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