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Biological Chemistry

Editor-in-Chief: Brüne, Bernhard

Editorial Board Member: Buchner, Johannes / Lei, Ming / Ludwig, Stephan / Sies, Helmut / Turk, Boris / Wittinghofer, Alfred

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Structure, mechanism and inhibition of γ-secretase and presenilin-like proteases

Michael S. Wolfe1

1Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, H.I.M. 754, Boston, MA 02115, USA

Corresponding author

Citation Information: Biological Chemistry. Volume 391, Issue 8, Pages 839–847, ISSN (Online) 1437-4315, ISSN (Print) 1431-6730, DOI: 10.1515/bc.2010.086, May 2010

Publication History

Published Online:


Presenilin is the catalytic component of γ-secretase, a complex aspartyl protease and a founding member of intramembrane-cleaving proteases. γ-Secretase is involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and a top target for therapeutic intervention. However, the protease complex processes a variety of transmembrane substrates, including the Notch receptor, raising concerns about toxicity. Nevertheless, γ-secretase inhibitors and modulators have been identified that allow Notch processing and signaling to continue, and promising compounds are entering clinical trials. Molecular and biochemical studies offer a model for how this protease hydrolyzes transmembrane domains in the confines of the lipid bilayer. Progress has also been made toward structure elucidation of presenilin and the γ-secretase complex by electron microscopy as well as by studying cysteine-mutant presenilins. The signal peptide peptidase (SPP) family of proteases are distantly related to presenilins. However, the SPPs work as single polypeptides without the need for cofactors and otherwise appear to be simple model systems for presenilin in the γ-secretase complex. SPP biology, structure, and inhibition will also be discussed.

Keywords: amyloid; Notch receptor; peptidomimetics; signal peptide peptidase; substrate analogs; substrate recognition

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