Absence of functional presenilin 1 (PS1) protein leads to loss of gamma-secretase cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein (betaAPP), resulting in a dramatic reduction in amyloid beta peptide (Abeta) production and accumulation of alpha- or beta-secretase-cleaved COOH-terminal fragments of betaAPP (alpha- or beta-CTFs). The major COOH-terminal fragment (CTF) in brain was identified as betaAPP-CTF-(11-98), which is consistent with the observation that cultured neurons generate primarily Abeta-(11-40). In PS1(-/-) murine neurons and fibroblasts expressing the loss-of-function PS1(D385A) mutant, CTFs accumulated in the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi, and lysosomes, but not late endosomes. There were some subtle differences in the subcellular distribution of CTFs in PS1(-/-) neurons as compared with PS1(D385A) mutant fibroblasts. However, there was no obvious redistribution of full-length betaAPP or of markers of other organelles in either mutant. Blockade of endoplasmic reticulum-to-Golgi trafficking indicated that in PS1(-/-) neurons (as in normal cells) trafficking of betaAPP to the Golgi compartment is necessary before alpha- and beta-secretase cleavages occur. Thus, although we cannot exclude a specific role for PS1 in trafficking of CTFs, these data argue against a major role in general protein trafficking. These results are more compatible with a role for PS1 either as the actual gamma-secretase catalytic activity or in other functions indirectly related to gamma-secretase catalysis (e.g. an activator of gamma-secretase, a substrate adaptor for gamma-secretase, or delivery of gamma-secretase to betaAPP-containing compartments).