Amyloid Precursor Protein Translation Is Regulated by a 3'UTR Guanine Quadruplex

PLoS One. 2015 Nov 30;10(11):e0143160. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143160. eCollection 2015.


A central event in Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation of amyloid β (Aβ) peptides generated by the proteolytic cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein (APP). APP overexpression leads to increased Aβ generation and Alzheimer's disease in humans and altered neuronal migration and increased long term depression in mice. Conversely, reduction of APP expression results in decreased Aβ levels in mice as well as impaired learning and memory and decreased numbers of dendritic spines. Together these findings indicate that therapeutic interventions that aim to restore APP and Aβ levels must do so within an ideal range. To better understand the effects of modulating APP levels, we explored the mechanisms regulating APP expression focusing on post-transcriptional regulation. Such regulation can be mediated by RNA regulatory elements such as guanine quadruplexes (G-quadruplexes), non-canonical structured RNA motifs that affect RNA stability and translation. Via a bioinformatics approach, we identified a candidate G-quadruplex within the APP mRNA in its 3'UTR (untranslated region) at residues 3008-3027 (NM_201414.2). This sequence exhibited characteristics of a parallel G-quadruplex structure as revealed by circular dichroism spectrophotometry. Further, as with other G-quadruplexes, the formation of this structure was dependent on the presence of potassium ions. This G-quadruplex has no apparent role in regulating transcription or mRNA stability as wild type and mutant constructs exhibited equivalent mRNA levels as determined by real time PCR. Instead, we demonstrate that this G-quadruplex negatively regulates APP protein expression using dual luciferase reporter and Western blot analysis. Taken together, our studies reveal post-transcriptional regulation by a 3'UTR G-quadruplex as a novel mechanism regulating APP expression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions*
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / genetics*
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / metabolism
  • G-Quadruplexes*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • RNA, Messenger