The tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha converting enzyme (TACE) can cleave the cell-surface ectodomain of the amyloid-beta precursor protein (APP), thus decreasing the generation of amyloid-beta (Abeta) by cultured non-neuronal cells. While the amyloidogenic processing of APP in neurons is linked to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the expression of TACE in neurons has not yet been examined. Thus, we assessed TACE expression in a series of neuronal and non-neuronal cell types by Western blots. We found that TACE was present in neurons and was only faintly detectable in lysates of astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglial cells. Immunohistochemical analysis was used to determine the cellular localization of TACE in the human brain, and its expression was detected in distinct neuronal populations, including pyramidal neurons of the cerebral cortex and granular cell layer neurons in the hippocampus. Very low levels of TACE were seen in the cerebellum, with Purkinje cells at the granular-molecular boundary staining faintly. Because TACE was localized predominantly in areas of the brain that are affected by amyloid plaques in AD, we examined its expression in a series of AD brains. We found that AD and control brains showed similar levels of TACE staining, as well as similar patterns of TACE expression. By double labeling for Abeta plaques and TACE, we found that TACE-positive neurons often colocalized with amyloid plaques in AD brains. These observations support a neuronal role for TACE and suggest a mechanism for its involvement in AD pathogenesis as an antagonist of Abeta formation.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.