Beta-secretase, aspartic-acid protease important in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.
Beta-secretase also called BACE (beta-site of APP cleaving enzyme) or memapsin-2. Beta-secretase is an aspartic-acid protease important in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, and in the formation of myelin sheaths in peripheral nerve cells. It cleaves amyloid precursor protein (APP) to reveal the N-terminus of the beta-amyloid peptides. The beta-amyloid peptides are the major components of the amyloid plaques formed in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Since BACE mediates one of the cleavages responsible for generation of AD, it is regarded as a potential target for pharmacological intervention in AD. Beta-secretase is a member of pepsin family of aspartic proteases. Same as other aspartic proteases, beta-secretase is a bilobal enzyme, each lobe contributing a catalytic Asp residue, with an extended active site cleft localized between the two lobes of the molecule. The N- and C-terminal domains, although structurally related by a 2-fold axis, have only limited sequence homology except the vicinity of the active site. This suggests that the enzymes evolved by an ancient duplication event. The enzymes specifically cleave bonds in peptides which have at least six residues in length with hydrophobic residues in both the P1 and P1' positions. The active site is located at the groove formed by the two lobes, with an extended loop projecting over the cleft to form an 11-residue flap, which encloses substrates and inhibitors in the active site. Specificity is determined by nearest-neighbor hydrophobic residues surrounding the catalytic aspartates, and by three residues in the flap. The enzymes are mostly secreted from cells as inactive proenzymes that activate autocatalytically at acidic pH. This family of aspartate proteases is classified by MEROPS as the peptidase family A1 (pepsin A, clan AA).