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PLoS One. 2009 Nov 18;4(11):e7893. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007893.

Allosteric modulation of PS1/gamma-secretase conformation correlates with amyloid beta(42/40) ratio.

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Alzheimer Research Unit, MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA.



Presenilin 1(PS1) is the catalytic subunit of gamma-secretase, the enzyme responsible for the Abeta C-terminal cleavage site, which results in the production of Abeta peptides of various lengths. Production of longer forms of the Abeta peptide occur in patients with autosomal dominant Alzheimer disease (AD) due to mutations in presenilin. Many modulators of gamma-secretase function have been described. We hypothesize that these modulators act by a common mechanism by allosterically modifying the structure of presenilin.


To test this hypothesis we generated a genetically encoded GFP-PS1-RFP (G-PS1-R) FRET probe that allows monitoring of the conformation of the PS1 molecule in its native environment in live cells. We show that G-PS1-R can be incorporated into the gamma-secretase complex, reconstituting its activity in PS1/2 deficient cells. Using Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based approaches we show that various pharmacological and genetic manipulations that target either gamma-secretase components (PS1, Pen2, Aph1) or gamma-secretase substrate (amyloid precursor protein, APP) and are known to change Abeta(42) production are associated with a consistent conformational change in PS1.


These results strongly support the hypothesis that allosteric changes in PS1 conformation underlie changes in the Abeta(42/40) ratio. Direct measurement of physiological and pathological changes in the conformation of PS1/gamma-secretase may provide insight into molecular mechanism of Abeta(42) generation, which could be exploited therapeutically.

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