Although the risk factor for harboring the apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4) allele in late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) is well known, the mechanism by which apoE4 contributes to AD pathogenesis has yet to be clarified. Preferential cleavage of the ApoE4 isoform relative to other polymorphic forms appears to be significant, as the resulting fragments are associated with hallmarks of AD. To examine the possible role of apoE4 proteolysis in AD, we designed a site-directed antibody directed at position D172, which would yield a predicted amino-terminal fragment previously identified in AD brain extracts. Western blot analysis utilizing this novel antibody, termed the amino-terminal apoE4 cleavage fragment (nApoE4CF) Ab, consistently identified the predicted amino-terminal fragment (∼18kDa) in several commercially available forms of human recombinant apoE4 purified from E. coli. Mass spectrometry confirmed the identity of this 18kDa fragment as being an amino-terminal fragment of apoE4. Immunohistochemical experiments indicated the nApoE4CF Ab specifically labeled neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in AD frontal cortex sections that colocalized with the mature tangle marker PHF-1. Taken together, these results suggest a novel cleavage event of apoE4, generating an amino-terminal fragment that localizes within NFTs of the AD brain.
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