Journal of Neurochemistry vol:90 issue:6 pages:1312-20
Gamma-secretase performs the final processing step in the generation of amyloid-beta (Abeta) peptides, which are believed to be causative for Alzheimer's disease. Presenilins (PS) are required for gamma-secretase activity and the presence of two essential intramembranous aspartates (D257 and D385) has implicated this region as the putative catalytic centre of an aspartyl protease. The presence of several key hydrogen-bonding residues around the active site of classical aspartyl proteases led us to investigate the role of both the critical aspartates and two nearby conserved hydrogen bond donors in PS1. Generation of cell lines stably overexpressing the D257E, D385E, Y256F and Y389F engineered mutations has enabled us to determine their role in enzyme catalysis and binding of a transition state analogue gamma-secretase inhibitor. Here we report that replacement of either tyrosine residue alters gamma-secretase cleavage specificity, resulting in an increase in the production of the more pathogenic Abeta42 peptide in both cells and membranous enzyme preparations, without affecting inhibitor binding. In contrast, replacement of either of the aspartate residues precludes inhibitor binding in addition to inactivation of the enzyme. Together, these data further incriminate the region around the intramembranous aspartates as the active site of the enzyme, targeted by transition state analogue inhibitors, and highlight the roles of individual residues.