Non-specific Detection of a Major Western Blotting Band in Human Brain Homogenates by a Multitude of Amyloid Precursor Protein Antibodies

Front Aging Neurosci. 2019 Oct 9;11:273. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2019.00273. eCollection 2019.


The use of human post-mortem brain material is of great value when investigating which pathological mechanisms occur in human brain, and to avoid translational problems which have for example been evident when translating animal research into Alzheimer disease (AD) clinical trials. The amyloid β (Aβ)-peptide, its amyloid precursor protein (APP) and the intermediate APP-c-terminal fragments (APP-CTFs) are all important players in AD pathogenesis. In order to elucidate which APP CTF that are the most common in brain tissue of different species and developmental stages, and whether there are any differences in these fragments between AD and control brain, we investigated the occurrence of these fragments using different APP c-terminal antibodies. We noticed that whereas the conventional APP-CTFα and CTFβ fragments were most prominent in rat and mouse brain tissue, the major western blotting band detected in human, macaque and guinea pig was of approximately 20 kDa in size, possibly corresponding to the newly discovered APP-CTFη. However, this band was also intensely stained with a total protein stain, as well as by several other antibodies. The staining intensity of the 20 kDa band by the APP antibodies varied considerably between samples and correlated with the staining intensity of this band by the total protein stain. This could potentially be due to non-specific binding of the antibodies to another protein of this size. In-gel digestion and mass spectrometry confirmed that small amounts of APP were present in this band, but many other proteins were identified as well. The major hit of the mass spectrometry analysis was myelin basic protein (MBP) and a myelin removal protocol removed proportionally more of the 20 kDa APP band than the full-length APP and APP-CTFα/β bands. However, the signal could not be immunodepleted with an MBP antibody. In summary, we report on a potentially non-specific western blotting band of approximately 20 kDa and call for precaution when analyzing proteins of this size in human brain tissue.

Keywords: amyloid precursor protein; cross-reactivity; human brain; western blotting; η-secretase.