Human BACE forms dimers and colocalizes with APP
J Biol Chem 279(38): 39710-7
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Beta-site APP-cleaving enzyme (BACE) is a membrane-bound aspartyl protease with no strict primary preference for cleavage. The molecular mechanisms that link the gamma-secretase multicomponent amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing complex to biochemical properties of BACE generating the N terminus of the amyloid beta-peptide have not, as yet, been identified. We found that in human brain tissue, BACE occurred as a dimer. The overall stability of the BACE homodimer was based on intermolecular interactions that were not affected by high salt, nonionic detergents or reducing conditions. BACE homodimers could only partially be separated even under strong denaturing conditions and revealed dramatic differences in the surface charge distribution compared with the monomer. In contrast, the soluble ectodomain of truncated BACE revealed a seemingly lower avidity to the prototypic aspartate protease inhibitor pepstatin and exclusively occurred in the monomeric form. Immunocytochemical studies colocalized APP and BACE in the plasma membrane of cells expressing endogenous levels of BACE and overexpressing APP. In cells that were cotransfected with APP and a putative active site D289A mutant of BACE, colocalization persisted. Remaining enzyme activity was found to be attributable to the mutant protease. Accordingly, inactivation of the carboxyl-terminal active site motif of BACE without an impairment of overall enzyme activity suggests that the enzyme may act as a dimer. Thus, homodimerization of BACE may help the enzyme to acquire specific mechanisms to associate with its substrates to exert catalytic activity.