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J Biol Chem. 2011 Jun 17;286(24):21440-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.193326. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

Structure of gamma-secretase and its trimeric pre-activation intermediate by single-particle electron microscopy.

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Department of Structural and Chemical Biology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


The γ-secretase membrane protein complex is responsible for proteolytic maturation of signaling precursors and catalyzes the final step in the production of the amyloid β-peptides implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease. The incorporation of PEN-2 (presenilin enhancer 2) into a pre-activation intermediate, composed of the catalytic subunit presenilin and the accessory proteins APH-1 (anterior pharynx-defective 1) and nicastrin, triggers the endoproteolysis of presenilin and results in an active tetrameric γ-secretase. We have determined the three-dimensional reconstruction of a mature and catalytically active γ-secretase using single-particle cryo-electron microscopy. γ-Secretase has a cup-like shape with a lateral belt of ∼40-50 Å in height that encloses a water-accessible internal chamber. Active site labeling with a gold-coupled transition state analog inhibitor suggested that the γ-secretase active site faces this chamber. Comparison with the structure of a trimeric pre-activation intermediate suggested that the incorporation of PEN-2 might contribute to the maturation of the active site architecture.

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