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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jun 1;287(23):19715-24. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.334847. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Membrane-microdomain localization of amyloid β-precursor protein (APP) C-terminal fragments is regulated by phosphorylation of the cytoplasmic Thr668 residue.

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From the Laboratory of Neuroscience, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0812, Japan.


Amyloid β-precursor protein (APP) is primarily cleaved by α- or β-secretase to generate membrane-bound, C-terminal fragments (CTFs). In turn, CTFs are potentially subject to a second, intramembrane cleavage by γ-secretase, which is active in a lipid raft-like membrane microdomain. Mature APP (N- and O-glycosylated APP), the actual substrate of these secretases, is phosphorylated at the cytoplasmic residue Thr(668) and this phosphorylation changes the overall conformation of the cytoplasmic domain of APP. We found that phosphorylated and nonphosphorylated CTFs exist equally in mouse brain and are kinetically equivalent as substrates for γ-secretase, in vitro. However, in vivo, the level of the phosphorylated APP intracellular domain peptide (pAICD) generated by γ-cleavage of CTFs was very low when compared with the level of nonphosphorylated AICD (nAICD). Phosphorylated CTFs (pCTFs), rather than nonphosphorylated CTFs (nCTFs), were preferentially located outside of detergent-resistant, lipid raft-like membrane microdomains. The APP cytoplasmic domain peptide (APP(648-695)) with Thr(P)(668) did not associate with liposomes composed of membrane lipids from mouse brain to which the nonphosphorylated peptide preferentially bound. In addition, APP lacking the C-terminal 8 amino acids (APP-ΔC8), which are essential for membrane association, decreased Aβ generation in N2a cells. These observations suggest that the pCTFs and CTFΔC8 are relatively movable within the membrane, whereas the nCTFs are susceptible to being anchored into the membrane, an interaction made available as a consequence of not being phosphorylated. By this mechanism, nCTFs can be preferentially captured and cleaved by γ-secretase. Preservation of the phosphorylated state of APP-CTFs may be a potential treatment to lower the generation of Aβ in Alzheimer disease.

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