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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1993 Sep 24;695:109-16.

Normal cellular processing of the beta-amyloid precursor protein results in the secretion of the amyloid beta peptide and related molecules.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and Program in Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the extracellular deposition in the brain and its blood vessels of insoluble aggregates of the amyloid beta peptide (A beta). This peptide is derived from a large integral membrane protein, the beta-amyloid precursor protein (beta APP), by proteolytic processing. The A beta has previously been found only in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease or advanced aging. We describe here the finding that A beta is produced continuously by normal processing in tissue culture cells. A beta and closely related peptides were identified in the media of cells transfected with cDNAs coding for beta APP in a variety of cell lines and primary tissue cultured cells. The identity of these peptides was confirmed by epitope mapping and radiosequencing. Peptides of a molecular weight of approximately 3 and approximately 4 kDa are described. The 4 kDa range contains mostly the A beta and two related peptides starting N-terminal to the beginning of A beta. In the 3 kDa range, the majority of peptides start at the secretase site; in addition, two longer peptides were found starting at amino acid F(4) and E(11) of the A beta sequence. To identify the processing pathways which lead to the secretion of these peptides, we used a variety of drugs known to interfere with certain cell biological pathways. We conclude that lysosomes may not play a predominant role in the formation of 3 and 4 kDa peptides. We show that an acidic environment is necessary to create the N-terminus of the A beta and postulate that alternative secretory cleavage might result in the formation of the N-terminus of A beta and related peptides. This cleavage takes place either in the late Golgi, at the cell-surface or in early endosomes, but not in lysosomes. The N-terminus of most of the 3 kDa peptides is created by secretory cleavage on the cell surface or within late Golgi.

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