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.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.