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J Am Chem Soc. 2003 Oct 1;125(39):11794-5.

Designed helical peptides inhibit an intramembrane protease.

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Center for Neurologic Diseases, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


gamma-Secretase cleaves the transmembrane domain of the amyloid precursor protein, a process implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, and this enzyme is a founding member of an emerging class of intramembrane proteases. Modeling and mutagenesis suggest a helical conformation for the substrate transmembrane domain upon initial interaction with the protease. Moreover, biochemical evidence supports the presence of an initial docking site for substrate on gamma-secretase that is distinct from the active site, a property predicted to be generally true of intramembrane proteases. Here we show that short peptides designed to adopt a helical conformation in solution are inhibitors of gamma-secretase in both cells and enzyme preparations. Helical peptides with all d-amino acids are the most potent inhibitors and represent potential therapeutic leads. Subtle modifications that disrupt helicity also substantially reduce potency, suggesting that this conformation is critical for effective inhibition. Fluorescence lifetime imaging in intact cells demonstrates that helical peptides disrupt binding between substrate and protease, whereas an active site-directed inhibitor does not. These findings are consistent with helical peptides interacting with the initial substrate docking site of gamma-secretase, suggesting a general strategy for the development of potent and specific inhibitors of intramembrane proteases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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