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Current Genomics


ISSN (Print): 1389-2029
ISSN (Online): 1875-5488

Structural and Functional Determinants of γ-Secretase, an Intramembrane Protease Implicated in Alzheimers Disease

Author(s): Patrick C. Fraering

Volume 8 , Issue 8 , 2007

Page: [531 - 549] Pages: 19

DOI: 10.2174/138920207783769521


Alzheimers disease is the most common form of neurodegenerative diseases in humans, characterized by the progressive accumulation and aggregation of amyloid-β peptides (Aβ) in brain regions subserving memory and cognition. These 39-43 amino acids long peptides are generated by the sequential proteolytic cleavages of the amyloid-β precursor protein (APP) by β- and γ-secretases, with the latter being the founding member of a new class of intramembrane-cleaving proteases (I-CliPs) characterized by their intramembranous catalytic residues hydrolyzing the peptide bonds within the transmembrane regions of their respective substrates. These proteases include the S2P family of metalloproteases, the Rhomboid family of serine proteases, and two aspartyl proteases: the signal peptide peptidase (SPP) and γ-secretase. In sharp contrast to Rhomboid and SPP that function as a single component, ??-secretase is a multi-component protease with complex assembly, maturation and activation processes. Recently, two low-resolution three-dimensional structures of γ- secretase and three high-resolution structures of the GlpG rhomboid protease have been obtained almost simultaneously by different laboratories. Although these proteases are unrelated by sequence or evolution, they seem to share common functional and structural mechanisms explaining how they catalyze intramembrane proteolysis. Indeed, a water-containing chamber in the catalytic cores of both γ-secretase and GlpG rhomboid provides the hydrophilic environment required for proteolysis and a lateral gating mechanism controls substrate access to the active site. The studies that have identified and characterized the structural determinants critical for the assembly and activity of the γ-secretase complex are reviewed here.

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