Article

The Membrane-Bound Aspartyl Protease BACE1: Molecular and Functional Properties in Alzheimer’s Disease and Beyond

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) Munich, Germany.
Frontiers in Physiology 02/2012; 3:8. DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) is a transmembrane aspartyl protease involved in Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis and in myelination. BACE1 initiates the generation of the pathogenic amyloid β-peptide, which makes BACE1 a major drug target for AD. BACE1 also cleaves and activates neuregulin 1, thereby contributing to postnatal myelination, in particular in the peripheral nervous system. Additional proteins are also cleaved by BACE1, but less is known about the physiological consequences of their cleavage. Recently, new phenotypes were described in BACE1-deficient mice. Although it remains unclear through which BACE1 substrates they are mediated, the phenotypes suggest a versatile role of this protease for diverse physiological processes. This review summarizes the enzymatic and cellular properties of BACE1 as well as its regulation by lipids, by transcriptional, and by translational mechanisms. The main focus will be on the recent progress in understanding BACE1 function and its implication for potential mechanism-based side effects upon therapeutic inhibition.

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    ABSTRACT: The beta amyloid (APP) cleaving enzyme (BACE1) has been a drug target for Alzheimer's Disease (AD) since 1999 with lead inhibitors now entering clinical trials. In 2011, the paralog, BACE2, became a new target for type II diabetes (T2DM) having been identified as a TMEM27 secretase regulating pancreatic β cell function. However, the normal roles of both enzymes are unclear. This study outlines their evolutionary history and new opportunities for functional genomics. We identified 30 homologs (UrBACEs) in basal phyla including Placozoans, Cnidarians, Choanoflagellates, Porifera, Echinoderms, Annelids, Mollusks and Ascidians (but not Ecdysozoans). UrBACEs are predominantly single copy, show 35-45% protein sequence identity with mammalian BACE1, are ~100 residues longer than cathepsin paralogs with an aspartyl protease domain flanked by a signal peptide and a C-terminal transmembrane domain. While multiple paralogs in Trichoplax and Monosiga pre-date the nervous system, duplication of the UrBACE in fish gave rise to BACE1 and BACE2 in the vertebrate lineage. The latter evolved more rapidly as the former maintained the emergent neuronal role. In mammals, Ka/Ks for BACE2 is higher than BACE1 but low ratios for both suggest purifying selection. The 5' exons show higher Ka/Ks than the catalytic section. Model organism genomes show the absence of certain BACE human substrates when the UrBACE is present. Experiments could thus reveal undiscovered substrates and roles. The human protease double-target status means that evolutionary trajectories and functional shifts associated with different substrates will have implications for the development of clinical candidates for both AD and T2DM. A rational basis for inhibition specificity ratios and assessing target-related side effects will be facilitated by a more complete picture of BACE1 and BACE2 functions informed by their evolutionary context.
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