Targeting presenilin-type aspartic protease signal peptide peptidase with gamma-secretase inhibitors.

Research paper by Andreas A Weihofen, Marius K MK Lemberg, Elena E Friedmann, Heinrich H Rueeger, Albert A Schmitz, Paolo P Paganetti, Giorgio G Rovelli, Bruno B Martoglio

Indexed on: 07 Mar '03Published on: 07 Mar '03Published in: Journal of Biological Chemistry


Presenilin is implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. It is thought to constitute the catalytic subunit of the gamma-secretase complex that catalyzes intramembrane cleavage of beta-amyloid precursor protein, the last step in the generation of amyloidogenic Abeta peptides. The latter are major constituents of amyloid plaques in the brain of Alzheimer's disease patients. Inhibitors of gamma-secretase are considered potential therapeutics for the treatment of this disease because they prevent production of Abeta peptides. Recently, we discovered a family of presenilin-type aspartic proteases. The founding member, signal peptide peptidase, catalyzes intramembrane cleavage of distinct signal peptides in the endoplasmic reticulum membrane of animals. In humans, the protease plays a crucial role in the immune system. Moreover, it is exploited by the hepatitis C virus for the processing of the structural components of the virion and hence is an attractive target for anti-infective intervention. Signal peptide peptidase and presenilin share identical active site motifs and both catalyze intramembrane proteolysis. These common features let us speculate that gamma-secretase inhibitors directed against presenilin may also inhibit signal peptide peptidase. Here we demonstrate that some of the most potent known gamma-secretase inhibitors efficiently inhibit signal peptide peptidase. However, we found compounds that showed higher specificity for one or the other protease. Our findings highlight the possibility of developing selective inhibitors aimed at reducing Abeta generation without affecting other intramembrane-cleaving aspartic proteases.