Membrane dynamics of γ-secretase with the anterior pharynx-defective 1B subunit

Budheswar Dehury, Kasper Planeta Kepp*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The four-subunit protease complex γ-secretase cleaves many single-pass transmembrane (TM) substrates, including Notch and β-amyloid precursor protein to generate amyloid-β (Aβ), central to Alzheimer's disease. Two of the subunits anterior pharynx-defective 1 (APH-1) and presenilin (PS) exist in two homologous forms APH1-A and APH1-B, and PS1 and PS2. The consequences of these variations are poorly understood and could affect Aβ production and γ-secretase medicine. Here, we developed the first complete structural model of the APH-1B subunit using the published cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structures of APH1-A (Protein Data Bank: 5FN2, 5A63, and 6IYC). We then performed all-atom molecular dynamics simulations at 303 K in a realistic bilayer system to understand both APH-1B alone and in γ-secretase without and with substrate C83-bound. We show that APH-1B adopts a 7TM topology with a water channel topology similar to APH-1A. We demonstrate direct transport of water through this channel, mainly via Glu84, Arg87, His170, and His196. The apo and holo states closely resemble the experimental cryo-EM structures with APH-1A, however with subtle differences: The substrate-bound APH-1B γ-secretase was quite stable, but some TM helices of PS1 and APH-1B rearranged in the membrane consistent with the disorder seen in the cryo-EM data. This produces different accessibility of water molecules for the catalytic aspartates of PS1, critical for Aβ production. In particular, we find that the typical distance between the catalytic aspartates of PS1 and the C83 cleavage sites are shorter in APH-1B, that is, it represents a more closed state, due to interactions with the C-terminal fragment of PS1. Our structural-dynamic model of APH-1B alone and in γ-secretase suggests generally similar topology but some notable differences in water accessibility which may be relevant to the protein's existence in two forms and their specific function and location.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)69-85
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • APH1-B
  • Membrane protein
  • Molecular dynamics
  • γ-secretase


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