The cytoplasmic tail of the amyloid precursor protein (APPc) interacts with several cellular factors implicated in intracellular signaling or proteolytic production of amyloid beta peptide found in senile plaques of Alzheimer's disease patients. APPc contains two threonine residues (654 and 668 relative to APP695, or 6 and 20 relative to APPc) and a serine residue (655 or 7, respectively) that are known to be phosphorylated in vivo and may play regulatory roles in these events. We show by solution NMR spectroscopy of a 49 residue cytoplasmic tail peptide (APP-C) that in all three cases, phosphorylation induces changes in backbone dihedral angles that can be attributed to formation of local hydrogen bonds between the phosphate group and nearby amide protons. Phosphorylation of S7 also induces chemical shift changes in the hydrophobic cluster (residues I8-V13), indicating additional medium-range effects. The most pronounced changes occur upon phosphorylation of T20, a neuron-specific phosphorylation site, where the N-terminal helix capping box previously characterized for this region is altered. Characterization of torsion angles and transient hydrogen bonds indicates that prolyl isomerization of the pThr-Pro peptide bond results from both destabilization of the N-terminal helix capping box and stabilization of the cis isomer by transient hydrogen bonds. The significant population of the cis isomer (9 %) present after phosphorylation of T20 suggests a potential role of selective recognition of cis versus trans isomers in response to phosphorylation of APP. Together, these structural changes indicate that phosphorylation may act as a conformational switch in the cytoplasmic tail of APP to alter specificity and affinity of binding to cytosolic partners, particularly in response to the abnormal phosphorylation events associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.