γ-secretase, a membrane-embedded aspartate protease, catalyzes peptide bond hydrolysis of a large variety of type I integral membrane proteins exemplified by amyloid precursor protein (APP). Cleavage of APP leads to formation of β-amyloid plaque, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Over 200 AD-associated mutations are mapped to presenilin 1 (PS1), the catalytic component of γ-secretase. In the past three years, several cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structures of human γ-secretase have been determined at near atomic resolutions. Here we summarize the methods involved and discuss structural features of γ-secretase and the associated functional insights.
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