Structure of the Catalytic Pore of -Secretase Probed by the Accessibility of Substituted Cysteines
Several single-span membrane proteins are cleaved within their transmembrane domains (TMDs) by intramembrane-cleaving proteases, although the structure of the active site executing intramembrane cleavage remains unknown. Here we use the substituted cysteine accessibility method to examine the structure of presenilin-1, a catalytic subunit of gamma-secretase, involved in amyloid beta protein generation in Alzheimer's disease and Notch signaling. We show that TMD6 and TMD7 of presenilin-1 contribute to the formation of a hydrophilic pore within the membrane. Residues at the luminal portion of TMD6 are predicted to form a subsite for substrate or inhibitor binding on the alpha-helix facing a hydrophilic milieu, whereas those around the GxGD catalytic motif within TMD7 are highly water accessible, suggesting formation of a hydrophilic structure within the pore. Collectively, our data suggest that the active site of gamma-secretase resides in a catalytic pore filled with water within the lipid bilayer and is tapered around the catalytic aspartates.