The lipid second messenger ceramide regulates the rate of β cleavage of the Alzheimer's disease APP (amyloid precursor protein) by affecting the molecular stability of the β secretase BACE1 (β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1). Such an event is stimulated in the brain by the normal process of aging, and is under the control of the general aging programme mediated by the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor. In the present study we report that BACE1 is acetylated on seven lysine residues of the N-terminal portion of the nascent protein. This process involves lysine acetylation in the lumen of the ER (endoplasmic reticulum) and is followed by deacetylation in the lumen of the Golgi apparatus, once the protein is fully mature. We also show that specific enzymatic activities acetylate (in the ER) and deacetylate (in the Golgi apparatus) the lysine residues. This process requires carrier-mediated translocation of acetyl-CoA into the ER lumen and is stimulated by ceramide. Site-directed mutagenesis indicates that lysine acetylation is necessary for nascent BACE1 to leave the ER and move ahead in the secretory pathway, and for the molecular stabilization of the protein.

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