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J Neurosci Res. 1996 Nov 1;46(3):336-48.

Alzheimer's beta-amyloid precursor protein is expressed on the surface of immediately ex vivo brain cells: a flow cytometric study.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University, Montréal Neurological Institute, Canada.


Beta-amyloid precursor protein (beta APP) is ubiquitously expressed, but deposition of the beta APP proteolytic fragment A beta is virtually restricted to the brain, suggesting cell-specific processing of this molecule. Our laboratory has investigated expression of beta APP in mechanically dissociated, unfixed, immediately ex vivo cells from various mouse and rat organs by flow cytometry. Epitopes of predicted extracellular domains of beta APP recognized by the N-terminal 22C11 monoclonal antibody (mAb) and the juxtamembrane 4G8 mAb were not detectable on the surface of lymphoid cells, hepatocytes, or kidney cells. In contrast, surface 22C11 and 4G8 beta APP immunoreactivity was abundant on intact (propidium iodide-excluding) dissociated brain cells. The predicted C-terminal intracellular beta APP determinant recognized by the mAb Jonas was not detectable on the surface of intact brain cells, but was present in ethanol-permeabilized cells, consistent with a transmembrane configuration of beta APP in brain cells. Trypsinization of intact brain cells abolished cell surface immunoreactivity for 22C11, which was then reestablished by short-term culture. Augmentation of 22C11 and 4G8 surface immunoreactivity occurred when brain cells were cultured short-term in phenylarsine oxide, a general endocytosis inhibitor. By double staining protocols of brain cells with mAbs directed against beta APP ectodomain epitopes and the neuronal surface proteins Thy-1 or neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), we observed that all Thy-1+ and NCAM+ cells (approximately 50%) were immunoreactive for surface beta APP, but that some beta APP+ cells (approximately 20%) were negative for these neuronal markers. Our data suggest that neurons and a subpopulation of other brain cells, unlike peripheral cells, can support beta APP as a type 1 intrinsic membrane molecule with an intact ectodomain, and that beta APP surface abundance is regulated by an equilibrium between membranes vesicle insertion and endocytotic internalization. Transmembrane beta APP holoprotein may be a critical determinant of brain-predominant processing of beta APP to A beta, and may participate in a receptor/transducer function unique to brain cells.

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