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J Am Chem Soc. 2016 Aug 3;138(30):9473-8. doi: 10.1021/jacs.6b03463. Epub 2016 Jul 19.

HtrA1 Proteolysis of ApoE In Vitro Is Allele Selective.

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Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies , 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037, United States.
Department of Chemical Physiology, The Scripps Research Institute , 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037, United States.


Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) belongs to a large class of proteins that solubilize lipids for physiological transport. Humans have three different APOE alleles, APOE ε2, APOE ε3, and APOE ε4, and genetic studies identified ApoE4 as the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). People who are homozygous for ApoE4 (i.e., ApoE4/E4) are an order of magnitude more likely to develop late-onset AD (LOAD) than ApoE3/E3 carriers. Several differences between ApoE3 and ApoE4 may contribute to AD including the observation that ApoE4 is degraded to a greater extent than ApoE3 in the human brain. Experiments with high-temperature requirement serine peptidase A1 (HtrA1), which is found in the nervous system, demonstrate that HtrA1 is an allele-selective ApoE-degrading enzyme that degrades ApoE4 more quickly than ApoE3. This activity is specific to HtrA1, as similar assays with HtrA2 showed minimal ApoE4 proteolysis and trypsin had no preference between ApoE4 and ApoE3. HtrA1 has also been reported to cleave the tau protein (Tau) and the amyloid protein precursor (APP) to hinder the formation of toxic amyloid deposits associated with AD. Competition assays with ApoE4, ApoE3, and Tau revealed that ApoE4 inhibits Tau degradation. Thus, the identification of ApoE4 as an in vitro HtrA1 substrate suggests a potential biochemical mechanism that links ApoE4 regulation of AD proteins such as Tau.

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