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J Biol Chem. 2000 Feb 4;275(5):3173-8.

The transmembrane aspartates in presenilin 1 and 2 are obligatory for gamma-secretase activity and amyloid beta-protein generation.

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Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School and Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The discovery that a deficiency of presenilin 1 (PS1) decreases the production of amyloid beta-protein (Abeta) identified the presenilins as important mediators of the gamma-secretase cleavage of beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP). Recently, we found that two conserved transmembrane (TM) aspartates in PS1 are critical for Abeta production, providing evidence that PS1 either functions as a required diaspartyl cofactor for gamma-secretase or is itself gamma-secretase. Presenilin 2 (PS2) shares substantial sequence and possibly functional homology with PS1. Here, we show that the two TM aspartates in PS2 are also critical for gamma-secretase activity, providing further evidence that PS2 is functionally homologous to PS1. Cells stably co-expressing TM Asp --> Ala mutations in both PS1 and PS2 show further accumulation of the APP-derived gamma-secretase substrates, C83 and C99. The production of Abeta is reduced to undetectable levels in the conditioned media of these cells. Furthermore, endoproteolysis of the exogenous Asp mutant PS2 is absent, and endogenous PS1 C-terminal fragments are diminished to undetectable levels. Therefore, the co-expression of PS1 and PS2 TM Asp --> Ala mutants suppresses the formation of any detectable PS1 or PS2 heterodimeric fragments and essentially abolishes the production of Abeta. These results explain the residual Abeta production seen in PS1-deficient cells and demonstrate the absolute requirement of functional presenilins for Abeta generation. We conclude that presenilins, and their TM aspartates in particular, are attractive targets for lowering Abeta therapeutically to prevent Alzheimer's disease.

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