Alzheimer's disease (AD) is defined by deposits of the 42-residue amyloid-beta peptide (Abeta42) in the brain. Abeta42 is a minor metabolite of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), but its relative levels are increased by mutations on APP and presenilins 1 and 2 linked to familial AD. beta-secretase (BACE-1), an aspartyl protease, cleaves approx 10% of the APP in neuronal cells on the N-terminal side of Abeta to produce the C-terminal fragment (CTFbeta), which is cleaved by gamma-secretase to produce mostly Abeta of 40 residues (90%) and approx10% Abeta42. A third enzyme, alpha-secretase, cleaves APP after Abeta16 to secrete sAPPalpha and CTFalpha, the major metabolites of APP. Moreover, previous studies have demonstrated that phorbol esters stimulate processing of APP by alpha-secretase. Because alpha-secretase and BACE-1 cleave APP within the secretory pathway, it is likely that the two enzymes compete for the APP substrate. This type of competition can explain the failure to saturate the minor BACE-1 pathway by overexpressing APP in the cell. In this study, we demonstrate that inhibition of constitutive alpha-secretase processing in a human neuroblastoma cell line does not increase the yield of Abeta, suggesting that the APP substrate targeted for alpha-secretase processing is not diverted to the BACE-1 pathway. However, when phorbol ester-induced alpha-secretase was similarly inhibited, we detected an increase in BACE-1 processing and AB yield. We explain these results compartmentalization of BACE-1 and alpha-secretase with processing depending on sorting of APP to the two compartments. The simplest explanation for the detection of competition between the two pathways upon phorbol ester stimulation is the partial failure of this compartmentalization by phorbol ester-induced release of secretory vesicles.
Copyright 2004 Humana Press Inc.