Beta-secretase 1 (BACE1) also known as beta-site APP cleaving enzyme 1 (beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1), memapsin-2 (membrane-associated aspartic protease 2), and aspartyl protease 2 (ASP2) is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the BACE1 gene.
β-Secretase is an aspartic-acid protease important in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, and in the formation of myelin sheaths in peripheral nerve cells. The transmembrane protein contains two active site aspartate residues in its extracellular protein domain and may function as a dimer.
Role in Alzheimer's disease
Generation of the 40 or 42 amino acid-long amyloid-β peptides that aggregate in the brain of Alzheimer's patients requires two sequential cleavages of the amyloid precursor protein (APP). Extracellular cleavage of APP by BACE creates a soluble extracellular fragment and a cell membrane-bound fragment referred to as C99. Cleavage of C99 within its transmembrane domain by γ-secretase releases the intracellular domain of APP and produces amyloid-β. Since alpha-secretase cleaves APP closer to the cell membrane than BACE does, it removes a fragment of the amyloid-β peptide. Initial cleavage of APP by alpha-secretase rather than BACE prevents eventual generation of amyloid-β.
Unlike APP and the presenilin proteins important in γ-secretase, no known mutations in the gene encoding BACE cause early-onset, familial Alzheimer's disease, which is a rare form of the disorder. However, levels of this enzyme have been shown to be elevated in the far more common late-onset sporadic Alzheimer's. The physiological purpose of BACE's cleavage of APP and other transmembrane proteins is unknown. BACE2 is a close homolog of BACE1 with no reported APP cleavage in vivo.
Drugs to block this enzyme (BACE inhibitors) in theory would prevent the build up of beta-amyloid and may help slow or stop the disease. Several companies are in the early stages of development and testing of this new potential class of treatment.
Relationship to plasmepsin
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