Proteomic profiling of gamma-secretase substrates and mapping of substrate requirements

PLoS Biol. 2008 Oct 21;6(10):e257. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060257.


The presenilin/gamma-secretase complex, an unusual intramembrane aspartyl protease, plays an essential role in cellular signaling and membrane protein turnover. Its ability to liberate numerous intracellular signaling proteins from the membrane and also mediate the secretion of amyloid-beta protein (Abeta) has made modulation of gamma-secretase activity a therapeutic goal for cancer and Alzheimer disease. Although the proteolysis of the prototypical substrates Notch and beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP) has been intensely studied, the full spectrum of substrates and the determinants that make a transmembrane protein a substrate remain unclear. Using an unbiased approach to substrate identification, we surveyed the proteome of a human cell line for targets of gamma-secretase and found a relatively small population of new substrates, all of which are type I transmembrane proteins but have diverse biological roles. By comparing these substrates to type I proteins not regulated by gamma-secretase, we determined that besides a short ectodomain, gamma-secretase requires permissive transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains to bind and cleave its substrates. In addition, we provide evidence for at least two mechanisms that can target a substrate for gamma cleavage: one in which a substrate with a short ectodomain is directly cleaved independent of sheddase association, and a second where a substrate requires ectodomain shedding to instruct subsequent gamma-secretase processing. These findings expand our understanding of the mechanisms of substrate selection as well as the diverse cellular processes to which gamma-secretase contributes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / pharmacology
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • Mice
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Triglycerides / pharmacology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology


  • Triglycerides
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • 1,2-dilinolenoyl-3-(4-aminobutyryl)propane-1,2,3-triol
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide