Antagonistic Effects of BACE1 and APH1B-γ-Secretase Control Axonal Guidance by Regulating Growth Cone Collapse

Cell Rep. 2015 Sep 1;12(9):1367-76. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.07.059. Epub 2015 Aug 20.


ΒACE1 is the major drug target for Alzheimer's disease, but we know surprisingly little about its normal function in the CNS. Here, we show that this protease is critically involved in semaphorin 3A (Sema3A)-mediated axonal guidance processes in thalamic and hippocampal neurons. An active membrane-bound proteolytic CHL1 fragment is generated by BACE1 upon Sema3A binding. This fragment relays the Sema3A signal via ezrin-radixin-moesin (ERM) proteins to the neuronal cytoskeleton. APH1B-γ-secretase-mediated degradation of this fragment stops the Sema3A-induced collapse and sensitizes the growth cone for the next axonal guidance cue. Thus, we reveal a cycle of proteolytic activity underlying growth cone collapse and restoration used by axons to find their correct trajectory in the brain. Our data also suggest that BACE1 and γ-secretase inhibition have physiologically opposite effects in this process, supporting the idea that combination therapy might attenuate some of the side effects associated with these drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases / genetics
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Growth Cones / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mice
  • Proteolysis
  • Semaphorin-3A / genetics
  • Semaphorin-3A / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Sema3a protein, mouse
  • Semaphorin-3A
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases
  • Endopeptidases
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases
  • Bace1 protein, mouse
  • Aph1b protein, mouse