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Exp Neurol. 2003 Aug;182(2):335-45.

BACE-2 is overexpressed in Down's syndrome.

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Neurobiology Laboratory, Memory Clinic, IRCCS Centro S. Giovanni di Dio-FbF, Brescia, Italy.


Brain deposition of the amyloid-beta protein (Abeta) is a frequent complication of Down's syndrome (DS) patients. Abeta peptide is generated by endoproteolytic processing of Abeta precursor protein by gamma and beta secretases. Recently a transmembrane aspartyl protease, BACE, has been identified as the beta-secretase, and its homologous BACE-2 has also been described. BACE-2 gene resides on chromosome 21 in the obligate DS region. It cleaves Abeta precursor protein at its beta site and more efficiently at a different site within Abeta. In the present study we characterized the BACE-2 gene and protein expression in the DS patients and healthy control. We analyzed, by using a nonradioactive ribonuclease protection assay, the levels of BACE-2 mRNA expression in primary skin fibroblasts. The analysis revealed a 2.6-fold increase in BACE-2 mRNA levels in the DS group compared to the levels observed in the control group. Western blot analysis revealed no difference between DS and control in BACE-2 protein levels in the intracellular compartment. In the medium conditioned by fibroblast, we revealed an evident secretion of BACE-2 protein, represented by two different molecular weights, remarkably increased in DS fibroblasts. BACE-2 overexpression was also confirmed in the DS fetal brains and human neural embryonic DS stem cells in which conditioned media BACE-2 was secreted. These data highlight the importance of the extracellular compartment where BACE-2 overexpression could play a role in plaque formation in DS patients.

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