APP dimer formation is initiated in the endoplasmic reticulum and differs between APP isoforms

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 Apr;69(8):1353-75. doi: 10.1007/s00018-011-0882-4. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


The amyloid precursor protein (APP) is part of a larger gene family, which has been found to form homo- or heterotypic complexes with its homologues, whereby the exact molecular mechanism and origin of dimer formation remains elusive. In order to assess the cellular location of dimerization, we have generated a cell culture model system in CHO-K1 cells, stably expressing human APP, harboring dilysine-based organelle sorting motifs [KKAA-endoplasmic reticulum (ER); KKFF-Golgi], accomplishing retention within early secretory compartments. We show that APP exists as disulfide-bonded dimers upon ER retention after it was isolated from cells, and analyzed by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis under non-reducing conditions. In contrast, strong denaturing and reducing conditions, or deletion of the E1 domain, resulted in the disappearance of those dimers. Thus we provide first evidence that a fraction of APP can associate via intermolecular disulfide bonds, likely generated between cysteines located in the extracellular E1 domain. We particularly visualize APP dimerization itself and identified the ER as subcellular compartment of its origin using biochemical or split GFP approaches. Interestingly, we also found that minor amounts of SDS-resistant APP dimers were located to the cell surface, revealing that once generated in the oxidative environment of the ER, dimers remained stably associated during transport. In addition, we show that APP isoforms encompassing the Kunitz-type protease inhibitor (KPI) domain exhibit a strongly reduced ability to form cis-directed dimers in the ER, whereas trans-mediated cell aggregation of Drosophila Schneider S2-cells was isoform independent. Thus, suggesting that steric properties of KPI-APP might be the cause for weaker cis-interaction in the ER, compared to APP695. Finally, we provide evidence that APP/APLP1 heterointeractions are likewise initiated in the ER.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / analysis
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Protein Isoforms / analysis
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism*
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary


  • APLP1 protein, human
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Cysteine