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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2006 Jul 21;346(1):330-4. Epub 2006 May 30.

Protease digestion indicates that endogenous presenilin 1 is present in at least two physical forms.

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Membrane Biology Section, Gene Therapy and Therapeutics Branch, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, DHHS, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The membrane-bound protein complex gamma-secretase is an intramembranous protease whose substrates are a number of type I transmembrane proteins including the beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP). A presenilin molecule is thought to be the catalytic unit of gamma-secretase and either of two presenilin homologues, PS1 or PS2, can play this role. Mutations in the presenilins, apparently leading to aberrant processing of APP, have been genetically linked to early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease. To look for possible molecular heterogeneity in presenilin/gamma-secretase we examined the ability of proteinase K (PK) to digest endogenously expressed presenilins in intact endoplasmic reticulum vesicles. We demonstrate the existence of two physically different forms of gamma-secretase-associated PS1, one that is relatively PK-sensitive and one that is significantly more PK-resistant. A similarly PK-resistant form of PS2 was not observed. We speculate that the structural heterogeneity we observe may underlie, at least in part, previous observations indicating the physical and functional heterogeneity of gamma-secretase. In particular, our results suggest that there are significant differences between gamma-secretase complexes incorporating PS1 and PS2. This difference may underlie the more dominant role of PS1 in the generation of beta-amyloid peptides and in familial Alzheimer's disease.

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