Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Chair of Metabolic Biochemistry

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Different transmembrane domains determine the specificity and efficiency of the cleavage activity of the γ-secretase subunit presenilin

J Biol Chem. 2023 Mar 20;299(5):104626.

Authors/Editors: Schmidt FC
Fitz K
Feilen LP
Okochi M
Steiner H
Langosch D
Publication Date: 2023
Type of Publication: Journal Article


The γ-secretase complex catalyzes the intramembrane cleavage of C99, a carboxy-terminal fragment of the amyloid precursor protein. Two paralogs of its catalytic subunit presenilin (PS1 and PS2) are expressed which are autocatalytically cleaved into an N-terminal and a C-terminal fragment during maturation of γ-secretase. In this study, we compared the efficiency and specificity of C99 cleavage by PS1- and PS2-containing γ-secretases. Mass spectrometric analysis of cleavage products obtained in cell-free and cell-based assays revealed that the previously described lower amyloid-β (Aβ)38 generation by PS2 is accompanied by a reciprocal increase in Aβ37 production. We further found PS1 and PS2 to show different preferences in the choice of the initial cleavage site of C99. However, the differences in Aβ38 and Aβ37 generation appear to mainly result from altered subsequent stepwise cleavage of Aβ peptides. Apart from these differences in cleavage specificity, we confirmed a lower efficiency of initial C99 cleavage by PS2 using a detergent-solubilized γ-secretase system. By investigating chimeric PS1/2 molecules, we show that the membrane-embedded, nonconserved residues of the N-terminal fragment mainly account for the differential cleavage efficiency and specificity of both presenilins. At the level of individual transmembrane domains (TMDs), TMD3 was identified as a major modulator of initial cleavage site specificity. The efficiency of endoproteolysis strongly depends on nonconserved TMD6 residues at the interface to TMD2, i.e., at a putative gate of substrate entry. Taken together, our results highlight the role of individual presenilin TMDs in the cleavage of C99 and the generation of Aβ peptides.

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