Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Chair of Metabolic Biochemistry

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Generation of Alzheimer disease-associated Aβ42/43 by γ-secretase can directly be inhibited by modulation of membrane thickness

J. Biol. Chem. 287, 21326-34.

Authors/Editors: Winkler E
Kamp F
Scheuring J
Ebke A
Steiner H
Publication Date: 2012
Type of Publication: Journal Article


Pathogenic generation of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) by sequential cleavage of β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) by β- and γ-secretases is widely believed to causally underlie Alzheimer disease (AD). β-Secretase initially cleaves APP thereby generating a membrane-bound APP C-terminal fragment, from which γ-secretase subsequently liberates 37-43 amino acid long Aβ species. Although the latter cleavages are intramembranous and although lipid alterations have been implicated in AD, little is known of how the γ-secretase-mediated release of the various Aβ species, in particular that of the pathogenic longer variants Aβ42 and Aβ43, is affected by the lipid environment. Using a cell-free system, we have directly and systematically investigated the activity of γ-secretase reconstituted in defined model membranes of different thicknesses. We found that bilayer thickness is a critical parameter affecting both total activity as well as cleavage specificity of γ-secretase. While the generation of the pathogenic Aβ42/43 species was markedly attenuated in thick membranes, that of the major and rather benign Aβ40 species was enhanced. Moreover, the increased production of Aβ42/43 by familial AD mutants of presenilin 1, the catalytic subunit of γ-secretase, could be substantially lowered in thick membranes. Our data demonstrate an effective modulation of γ-secretase activity by membrane thickness, which may provide an approach to lower the generation of the pathogenic Aβ42/43 species.


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