The amyloidogenic processing pathway of the APP (amyloid precursor protein) generates Aβ (amyloid β-peptide), the major constituent in Alzheimer's disease senile plaques. This processing is catalysed by two unusual membrane-localized aspartic proteinases, β-secretase [BACE1 (β-site APP-cleaving enzyme 1)] and the γ-secretase complex. There is a clear link between APP processing and copper homoeostasis in the brain. APP binds copper and zinc in the extracellular domain and Aβ also binds copper, zinc and iron. We have found that a 24-residue peptide corresponding to the C-terminal domain of BACE1 binds a single copper(I) atom with high affinity through cysteine residues. We also observed that the cytoplasmic domain of BACE1 interacts with CCS, the dedicated copper chaperone for SOD1 (superoxide dismutase 1). Overproduction of BACE1 reduces SOD1 activity in cells. Consequently, SOD1 activity, cytosolic copper and ectodomain cleavage of APP are linked through BACE1.

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