Conformational models of APP processing by gamma secretase based on analysis of pathogenic mutations

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4 Scopus citations


Proteolytic processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP) plays a critical role in the path-ogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Sequential cleavage of APP by β and γ secretases leads to the generation of Aβ40 (non-amyloidogenic) and Aβ42 (amyloidogenic) peptides. Presenilin-1 (PS1) or presenilin-2 (PS2) play the role of a catalytic subunit of γ-secretase. Multiple familial AD (FAD) mutations in APP, PS1, or PS2 result in an increased Aβ42:Aβ40 ratio and the accumulation of toxic Aβ42 oligomers and plaques in patient brains. In this study, we perform molecular modeling of the APP complex with γ-secretase and analyze potential effects of FAD mutations in APP and PS1. We noticed that all FAD mutations in the APP transmembrane domain are predicted to cause an increase in the local disorder of its secondary structure. Based on structural analysis of known γ-secretase structures, we propose that APP can form a complex with γ-secretase in 2 potential con-formations—M1 and M2. In conformation, the M1 transmembrane domain of APP forms a contact with the perimembrane domain that follows transmembrane domain 6 (TM6) in the PS1 structure. In conformation, the M2 transmembrane domain of APP forms a contact with transmembrane domain 7 (TM7) in the PS1 structure. By analyzing the effects of PS1-FAD mutations on the local protein disorder index, we discovered that these mutations increase the conformational flexibility of M2 and reduce the conformational flexibility of M1. Based on these results, we propose that M2 conformation, but not M1 conformation, of the γ secretase complex with APP leads to the amyloi-dogenic (Aβ42-generating) processing of APP. Our model predicts that APP processing in M1 conformation is favored by curved membranes, such as the membranes of early endosomes. In contrast, APP processing in M2 conformation is likely to be favored by relatively flat membranes, such as membranes of late endosomes and plasma membranes. These predictions are consistent with pub-lished biochemical analyses of APP processing at different subcellular locations. Our results also suggest that specific inhibitors of Aβ42 production could be potentially developed by selectively targeting the M2 conformation of the γ secretase complex with APP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13600
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • APP
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Gamma-secretase
  • Modeling
  • Protein disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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