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Neurobiol Dis. 2004 Nov;17(2):260-72.

Coordinated and widespread expression of gamma-secretase in vivo: evidence for size and molecular heterogeneity.

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  • 1Neuronal Cell Biology and Gene Transfer, Center for Human Genetics, Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB4) and K.U. Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Gamma-secretase is a high molecular weight protein complex composed of four subunits, namely, presenilin (PS; 1 or 2), nicastrin, anterior pharynx defective-1 (Aph-1; A or B), and presenilin enhancer-2 (Pen-2), and is responsible for the cleavage of a number of type-1 transmembrane proteins. A fundamental question is whether different gamma-secretase complexes exist in vivo. We demonstrate here by in situ hybridization and by Northern and Western blotting that the gamma-secretase components are widely distributed in all tissues investigated. The expression of the different subunits seems tightly coregulated. However, some variation in the expression of the Aph-1 proteins is observed, Aph-1A being more general and abundantly distributed than Aph-1B. The previously uncharacterized rodent-specific Aph-1C mRNA is highly expressed in the kidney and testis but not in brain or other tissues, indicating some tissue specificity for the Aph-1 component of the gamma-secretase complex. Blue-native electrophoresis revealed size heterogeneity of the mature gamma-secretase complex in various tissues. Using co-immunoprecipitations and blue-native electrophoresis at endogenous protein levels, we find evidence that several independent gamma-secretase complexes can coexist in the same cell type. In conclusion, our results suggest that gamma-secretase is a heterogeneous family of protein complexes widely expressed in the adult organism.

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