Presenilin function and γ-secretase activity

A. L. Brunkan, A. M. Goate

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia and is characterized pathologically by the accumulation of β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Genetic studies of AD first highlighted the importance of the presenilins (PS). Subsequent functional studies have demonstrated that PS form the catalytic subunit of the γ-secretase complex that produces the Aβ peptide, confirming the central role of PS in AD biology. Here, we review the studies that have characterized PS function in the γ-secretase complex in Caenorhabditis elegans, mice and in in vitro cell culture systems, including studies of PS structure, PS interactions with substrates and other γ-secretase complex members, and the evidence supporting the hypothesis that PS are aspartyl proteases that are active in intramembranous proteolysis. A thorough knowledge of the mechanism of PS cleavage in the context of the γ-secretase complex will further our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that cause AD, and may allow the development of therapeutics that can alter Aβ production and modify the risk for AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-792
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid precursor protein
  • Presenilin
  • Presenilinase
  • γ-secretase


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