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1.  The β-Secretase Enzyme BACE in Health and Alzheimer's Disease: Regulation, Cell Biology, Function, and Therapeutic Potential 
The β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide is the major constituent of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain and is likely to play a central role in the pathogenesis of this devastating neurodegenerative disorder. The β-secretase, β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme (BACE1; also called Asp2, memapsin 2), is the enzyme responsible for initiating Aβ generation. Thus, BACE is a prime drug target for the therapeutic inhibition of Aβ production in AD. Since its discovery 10 years ago, much has been learned about BACE. This review summarizes BACE properties, describes BACE translation dysregulation in AD, and discusses BACE physiological functions in sodium current, synaptic transmission, myelination, and schizophrenia. The therapeutic potential of BACE will also be considered. This is a summary of topics covered at a symposium held at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and is not meant to be a comprehensive review of BACE.
PMCID: PMC2879048  PMID: 19828790
2.  Targeting the β secretase BACE1 for Alzheimer’s disease therapy 
Lancet neurology  2014;13(3):319-329.
The β secretase, widely known as β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1), initiates the production of the toxic amyloid β (Aβ) that plays a crucial early part in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. BACE1 is a prime therapeutic target for lowering cerebral Aβ concentrations in Alzheimer’s disease, and clinical development of BACE1 inhibitors is being intensely pursued. Although BACE1 inhibitor drug development has proven challenging, several promising BACE1 inhibitors have recently entered human clinical trials. The safety and efficacy of these drugs are being tested at present in healthy individuals and patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and will soon be tested in individuals with presymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. Although hopes are high that BACE1 inhibitors might be efficacious for the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, concerns have been raised about potential mechanism-based side-effects of these drugs. The potential of therapeutic BACE1 inhibition might prove to be a watershed in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC4086426  PMID: 24556009
3.  The Alzheimer's β-secretase enzyme BACE1 is required for accurate axon guidance of olfactory sensory neurons and normal glomerulus formation in the olfactory bulb 
The β-secretase, β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1), is a prime therapeutic target for lowering cerebral β-amyloid (Aβ) levels in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Clinical development of BACE1 inhibitors is being intensely pursued. However, little is known about the physiological functions of BACE1, and the possibility exists that BACE1 inhibition may cause mechanism-based side effects. Indeed, BACE1-/- mice exhibit a complex neurological phenotype. Interestingly, BACE1 co-localizes with presynaptic neuronal markers, indicating a role in axons and/or terminals. Moreover, recent studies suggest axon guidance molecules are potential BACE1 substrates. Here, we used a genetic approach to investigate the function of BACE1 in axon guidance of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), a well-studied model of axon targeting in vivo.
We bred BACE1-/- mice with gene-targeted mice in which GFP is expressed from the loci of two odorant-receptors (ORs), MOR23 and M72, and olfactory marker protein (OMP) to produce offspring that were heterozygous for MOR23-GFP, M72-GFP, or OMP-GFP and were either BACE1+/+ or BACE1-/-. BACE1-/- mice had olfactory bulbs (OBs) that were smaller and weighed less than OBs of BACE1+/+ mice. In wild-type mice, BACE1 was present in OSN axon terminals in OB glomeruli. In whole-mount preparations and tissue sections, many OB glomeruli from OMP-GFP; BACE1-/- mice were malformed compared to wild-type glomeruli. MOR23-GFP; BACE1-/- mice had an irregular MOR23 glomerulus that was innervated by randomly oriented, poorly fasciculated OSN axons compared to BACE1+/+ mice. Most importantly, M72-GFP; BACE1-/- mice exhibited M72 OSN axons that were mis-targeted to ectopic glomeruli, indicating impaired axon guidance in BACE1-/- mice.
Our results demonstrate that BACE1 is required for the accurate targeting of OSN axons and the proper formation of glomeruli in the OB, suggesting a role for BACE1 in axon guidance. OSNs continually undergo regeneration and hence require ongoing axon guidance. Neurogenesis and the regeneration of neurons and axons occur in other adult populations of peripheral and central neurons that also require axon guidance throughout life. Therefore, BACE1 inhibitors under development for the treatment of AD may potentially cause axon targeting defects in these neuronal populations as well.
PMCID: PMC3269394  PMID: 22204380
Aβ; BACE1; β-amyloid; β-secretase; Alzheimer's disease; axon guidance; axon targeting; glomerulus; odorant receptor; olfactory sensory neuron; olfactory bulb; olfactory system
4.  BACE-1 inhibition prevents the γ-secretase inhibitor evoked Aβ rise in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells 
Accumulation of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) in the plaques is one of the major pathological features in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Sequential cleavage of amyloid precursor protein (APP) by β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE-1) and γ-secretase results in the formation of Aβ peptides. Preventing Aβ formation is believed to attenuate AD progression and BACE-1 and γ-secretase are thus attractive targets for AD drug development.
Combining BACE-1 and γ-secretase inhibition on Aβ secretion from human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells was evaluated in this study. Secreted Aβ40 and Aβ42 levels were measured from SH-SY5Y cells stably transfected with APPwt or APPswe genes. A selective BACE inhibitor and the γ-secretase inhibitor LY450139 (semagacestat) were used to inhibit respective secretase.
LY450139 increased Aβ40 and Aβ42 secretion from SH-SY5Y APPwt cells at low concentrations (by 60% at 3 nM) followed by subsequent inhibition at higher concentrations (IC50 90 nM). Washout studies showed that the Aβ increase evoked by 3 nM LY450139 was not due to enhanced cleavage following substrate accumulation but rather to activation of Aβ formation. By contrast, LY450139 inhibited Aβ formation from SH-SY5Y APPswe in a monophasic manner (IC50 18 nM). The BACE inhibitor per se inhibited Aβ secretion from both SH-SY5Y APPwt and SH-SY5Y APPswe cells with IC50s ranging between 7 - 18 nM and also prevented the increased Aβ secretion evoked by 3 nM LY450139. Combining the BACE inhibitor with higher inhibitory concentrations of LY450139 failed to demonstrate any clear additive or synergistic effects.
BACE-1 inhibition attenuates the Aβ increase evoked by LY450139 while not providing any obvious synergistic effects on LY450139-mediated inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3217850  PMID: 22018341
5.  Beta-secretase: Structure, Function, and Evolution 
The most popular current hypothesis is that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is caused by aggregates of the amyloid peptide (Aβ), which is generated by cleavage of the Aβ protein precursor (APP) by β-secretase (BACE-1) followed by γ-secretase. BACE-1 cleavage is limiting for the production of Aβ, making it a particularly good drug target for the generation of inhibitors that lower Aβ. A landmark discovery in AD was the identification of BACE-1 (a.k.a. Memapsin-2) as a novel class of type I transmembrane aspartic protease. Although BACE-2, a homologue of BACE-1, was quickly identified, follow up studies using knockout mice demonstrated that BACE-1 was necessary and sufficient for most neuronal Aβ generation. Despite the importance of BACE-1 as a drug target, development has been slow due to the incomplete understanding of its function and regulation and the difficulties in developing a brain penetrant drug that can specifically block its large catalytic pocket. This review summarizes the biological properties of BACE-1 and attempts to use phylogenetic perspectives to understand its function. The article also addresses the challenges in discovering a selective drug-like molecule targeting novel mechanisms of BACE-1 regulation.
PMCID: PMC2921875  PMID: 18673212
BACE-1; secretase; Memapsin; Alzheimer; Amyloid; aspartyl protease
6.  Reduced BACE1 activity enhances clearance of myelin debris and regeneration of axons in the injured peripheral nervous system 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2011;31(15):5744-5754.
β- site amyloid precursor protein (APP) cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) is an aspartyl protease best known for its role in generating the amyloid β peptides that are present in plaques of Alzheimer's Disease. BACE1 has been an attractive target for drug development. In cultured embryonic neurons BACE1-cleaved N-terminal APP is further processed to generate a fragment that can trigger axonal degeneration, suggesting a vital role for BACE1 in axonal health. In addition, BACE1 cleaves neuregulin 1 type III, a protein critical for myelination of peripheral axons by Schwann cells during development. Here, we asked if axonal degeneration or axonal regeneration in adult nerves might be affected by inhibition or elimination of BACE1. We report that BACE1 knockout and wild-type nerves degenerated at a similar rate after axotomy and to a similar extent in the experimental neuropathies produced by administration of paclitaxel and acrylamide. These data indicate N-APP is not the sole culprit in axonal degeneration in adult nerves. Unexpectedly, however, we observed that BACE1 knockout mice had markedly enhanced clearance of axonal and myelin debris from degenerated fibers, accelerated axonal regeneration, and earlier reinnervation of neuromuscular junctions, compared to littermate controls. These observations were reproduced in part by pharmacological inhibition of BACE1. These data suggest BACE1 inhibition as a therapeutic approach to accelerate regeneration and recovery after peripheral nerve damage.
PMCID: PMC3302726  PMID: 21490216
7.  Inhibition of BACE1 for therapeutic usein Alzheimer's disease 
Since BACE1 was reported as the β-secretase in Alzheimer's disease (AD) over ten years ago, encouraging progress has been made toward understanding the cellular functions of BACE1. Genetic studies have further confirmed that BACE1 is essential for processing amyloid precursor protein (APP) at the β-secretase site. Only after this cleavage can the membrane-bound APP C-terminal fragment be subsequently cleaved by γ-secretase to release so-called AD-causing Aβ peptides. Hence, in the past decade, a wide variety of BACE1 inhibitors have been developed for AD therapy. This review will summarize the major historical events during the evolution of BACE1 inhibitors designed through different strategies of drug discovery. Although BACE1 inhibitors are expected to be safe in general, careful titration of drug dosage to avoid undesirable side effects in BACE1-directed AD therapy is also emphasized.
PMCID: PMC2907124  PMID: 20661410
Alzheimer's disease; amyloid plaques; BACE1; aspartyl protease; drug discovery
8.  β-secretase cleavage of the fly Amyloid Precursor Protein is required for glial survival 
β-secretase (or BACE1) is the key enzyme in the production of β-amyloid (Aβ), which accumulates in the senile plaques characteristic for Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Consequently, the lack of BACE1 prevents β-processing of the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) and Aβ production, which made it a promising target for drug development. However, the loss of BACE1 is also detrimental, leading to myelination defects and altered neuronal activity, functions that have been associated with the cleavage of Neuregulin and a voltage-gated sodium channel subunit. Here we show that the Drosophila orthologue of BACE, dBACE, is required for glial survival. Cell-specific knockdown experiments reveal that this is a non-cell autonomous function, as a knockdown of dBACE in photoreceptor neurons leads to progressive degeneration of glia in their target zone, the lamina. Interestingly, this phenotype is suppressed by the loss of the fly Amyloid Precursor Protein (APPL), whereas a secretion-deficient form of APPL enhances the degeneration. This shows that full-length APPL in neurons promotes the death of neighboring glial cells and that β-processing of APPL is needed to prevent glial death. These results therefore not only demonstrate a novel function for an APP protein in glia, but they also show this function specifically requires regulation by β-cleavage.
PMCID: PMC3936607  PMID: 23152602
9.  Axonal BACE1 dynamics and targeting in hippocampal neurons: a role for Rab11 GTPase 
BACE1 is one of the two enzymes that cleave amyloid precursor protein to generate Alzheimer's disease (AD) beta amyloid peptides. It is widely believed that BACE1 initiates APP processing in endosomes, and in the brain this cleavage is known to occur during axonal transport of APP. In addition, BACE1 accumulates in dystrophic neurites surrounding brain senile plaques in individuals with AD, suggesting that abnormal accumulation of BACE1 at presynaptic terminals contributes to pathogenesis in AD. However, only limited information is available on BACE1 axonal transport and targeting.
By visualizing BACE1-YFP dynamics using live imaging, we demonstrate that BACE1 undergoes bi-directional transport in dynamic tubulo-vesicular carriers along axons in cultured hippocampal neurons and in acute hippocampal slices of transgenic mice. In addition, a subset of BACE1 is present in larger stationary structures, which are active presynaptic sites. In cultured neurons, BACE1-YFP is preferentially targeted to axons over time, consistent with predominant in vivo localization of BACE1 in presynaptic terminals. Confocal analysis and dual-color live imaging revealed a localization and dynamic transport of BACE1 along dendrites and axons in Rab11-positive recycling endosomes. Impairment of Rab11 function leads to a diminution of total and endocytosed BACE1 in axons, concomitant with an increase in the soma. Together, these results suggest that BACE1 is sorted to axons in endosomes in a Rab11-dependent manner.
Our results reveal novel information on dynamic BACE1 transport in neurons, and demonstrate that Rab11-GTPase function is critical for axonal sorting of BACE1. Thus, we suggest that BACE1 transcytosis in endosomes contributes to presynaptic BACE1 localization.
PMCID: PMC4031619  PMID: 24386896
BACE1; Rab11; Transcytosis; Axonal sorting; Axonal transport; Recycling endosome
10.  Postsynaptic Target Specific Synaptic Dysfunctions in the CA3 Area of BACE1 Knockout Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92279.
Beta-amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1), a major neuronal β-secretase critical for the formation of β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide, is considered one of the key therapeutic targets that can prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although a complete ablation of BACE1 gene prevents Aβ formation, we previously reported that BACE1 knockouts (KOs) display presynaptic deficits, especially at the mossy fiber (MF) to CA3 synapses. Whether the defect is specific to certain inputs or postsynaptic targets in CA3 is unknown. To determine this, we performed whole-cell recording from pyramidal cells (PYR) and the stratum lucidum (SL) interneurons in the CA3, both of which receive excitatory MF terminals with high levels of BACE1 expression. BACE1 KOs displayed an enhancement of paired-pulse facilitation at the MF inputs to CA3 PYRs without changes at the MF inputs to SL interneurons, which suggests postsynaptic target specific regulation. The synaptic dysfunction in CA3 PYRs was not restricted to excitatory synapses, as seen by an increase in the paired-pulse ratio of evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents from SL to CA3 PYRs. In addition to the changes in evoked synaptic transmission, BACE1 KOs displayed a reduction in the frequency of miniature excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs and mIPSCs) in CA3 PYRs without alteration in mEPSCs recorded from SL interneurons. This suggests that the impairment may be more global across diverse inputs to CA3 PYRs. Our results indicate that the synaptic dysfunctions seen in BACE1 KOs are specific to the postsynaptic target, the CA3 PYRs, independent of the input type.
PMCID: PMC3956924  PMID: 24637500
11.  Alzheimer’s β-secretase (BACE1) regulates the cAMP/PKA/CREB pathway independently of β-amyloid 
β-Amyloid protein (Aβ), the major component of neuritic plaques in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is derived from proteolytic cleavages of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) by β-secretase (BACE1) and the γ-secretase complex. BACE1 is the rate-limiting enzyme for Aβ production and an increase in BACE1 level/activity contributes to the pathogenesis of sporadic AD. In addition to cleaving APP for Aβ generation, BACE1 plays multiple physiological roles including the regulation of synaptic functions. Here, we found that overexpression of BACE1 reduces CREB phosphorylation, PKA activity and cAMP levels, whereas down-regulation of BACE1 has the opposite effect. We showed that BACE1’s effect is independent of its activity for Aβ production, which is corroborated by the observation that BACE1 transgenic mice have impaired learning/memory in the absence of neurotoxic human Aβ. Furthermore, we demonstrated that BACE1 interacts via its transmembrane domain with adenylate cyclase, resulting in reduction of cellular cAMP levels and thus PKA inactivation and reduced CREB phosphorylation. Our study suggests that besides its function as the β-secretase to produce Aβ, BACE1 may contribute to the memory and cognitive deficits typical of AD by regulating the cAMP/PKA/CREB pathway, which is important for memory functions.
PMCID: PMC3446780  PMID: 22895721
12.  The Basic Biology of BACE1: A Key Therapeutic Target for Alzheimer’s Disease 
Current Genomics  2007;8(8):509-530.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an intractable, neurodegenerative disease that appears to be brought about by both genetic and non-genetic factors. The neuropathology associated with AD is complex, although amyloid plaques composed of the β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) are hallmark neuropathological lesions of AD brain. Indeed, Aβ plays an early and central role in this disease. β-site amyloid precursor protein (APP) cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) is the initiating enzyme in Aβ genesis and BACE1 levels are elevated under a variety of conditions. Given the strong correlation between Aβ and AD, and the elevation of BACE1 in this disease, this enzyme is a prime drug target for inhibiting Aβ production in AD. However, nine years on from the initial identification of BACE1, and despite intense research, a number of key questions regarding BACE1 remain unanswered. Indeed, drug discovery and development for AD continues to be challenging. While current AD therapies temporarily slow cognitive decline, treatments that address the underlying pathologic mechanisms of AD are completely lacking. Here we review the basic biology of BACE1. We pay special attention to recent research that has provided some answers to questions such as those involving the identification of novel BACE1 substrates, the potential causes of BACE1 elevation and the putative function of BACE1 in health and disease. Our increasing understanding of BACE1 biology should aid the development of compounds that interfere with BACE1 expression and activity and may lead to the generation of novel therapeutics for AD.
PMCID: PMC2647160  PMID: 19415126
Alzheimer’s; BACE1; β-secretase; Aβ; vascular disease; regulation; stress.
13.  Potent bace-1 inhibitor design using pharmacophore modeling, in silico screening and molecular docking studies 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12(Suppl 1):S28.
Beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme (BACE-1) is a single-membrane protein belongs to the aspartyl protease class of catabolic enzymes. This enzyme involved in the processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP). The cleavage of APP by BACE-1 is the rate-limiting step in the amyloid cascade leading to the production of two peptide fragments Aβ40 and Aβ42. Among two peptide fragments Aβ42 is the primary species thought to be responsible for the neurotoxicity and amyloid plaque formation that lead to memory and cognitive defects in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD is a ravaging neurodegenerative disorder for which no disease-modifying treatment is currently available. Inhibition of BACE-1 is expected to stop amyloid plaque formation and emerged as an interesting and attractive therapeutic target for AD.
Ligand-based computational approach was used to identify the molecular chemical features required for the inhibition of BACE-1 enzyme. A training set of 20 compounds with known experimental activity was used to generate pharmacophore hypotheses using 3D QSAR Pharmacophore Generation module available in Discovery studio. The hypothesis was validated by four different methods and the best hypothesis was utilized in database screening of four chemical databases like Maybridge, Chembridge, NCI and Asinex. The retrieved hit compounds were subjected to molecular docking study using GOLD 4.1 program.
Among ten generated pharmacophore hypotheses, Hypo 1 was chosen as best pharmacophore hypothesis. Hypo 1 consists of one hydrogen bond donor, one positive ionizable, one ring aromatic and two hydrophobic features with high correlation coefficient of 0.977, highest cost difference of 121.98 bits and lowest RMSD value of 0.804. Hypo 1 was validated using Fischer randomization method, test set with a correlation coefficient of 0.917, leave-one-out method and decoy set with a goodness of hit score of 0.76. The validated Hypo 1 was used as a 3D query in database screening and retrieved 773 compounds with the estimated activity value <100 nM. These hits were docked into the active site of BACE-1 and further refined based on molecular interactions with the essential amino acids and good GOLD fitness score.
The best pharmacophore hypothesis, Hypo 1, with high predictive ability contains chemical features required for the effective inhibition of BACE-1. Using Hypo 1, we have identified two compounds with diverse chemical scaffolds as potential virtual leads which, as such or upon further optimization, can be used in the designing of new BACE-1 inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3044283  PMID: 21342558
14.  Mechanisms that lessen benefits of β-secretase reduction in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease 
Translational Psychiatry  2013;3(7):e284-.
The β-secretase enzyme BACE1 (β-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme 1), which initiates amyloid-β (Aβ) production, is an excellent therapeutic target for Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, recent evidence raises concern that BACE1-inhibiting approaches may encounter dramatic declines in their abilities to ameliorate AD-like pathology and memory deficits during disease progression. Here, we used BACE1 haploinsufficiency as a therapeutic relevant model to evaluate the efficacy of partial inhibition of this enzyme. Specifically, we crossed BACE1+/− mice with 5XFAD transgenic mice and investigated the mechanisms by which Aβ accumulation and related memory impairments become less sensitive to rescue by BACE1+/− reduction. Haploinsufficiency lowered BACE1 expression by ∼50% in 5XFAD mice regardless of age in concordance with reduction in gene copy number. However, profound Aβ plaque pathology and memory deficits concomitant with BACE1 equivalent to wild-type control levels remained in BACE1+/−·5XFAD mice with advanced age (15–18 months old). Therefore, BACE1 haploinsufficiency is not sufficient to block the elevation of BACE1 expression (approximately twofold), which is also reported to occur during human AD progression, in 5XFAD mice. Our investigation revealed that PERK (PKR-endoplasmic reticulum-related kinase)-dependent activation of eIF2α (eukaryotic translation initiation factor-2α) accounts for the persistent BACE1 upregulation in BACE1+/−·5XFAD mouse brains at 15–18 months of age. Moreover, BACE1 haploinsufficiency was also no longer able to prevent reduction in the expression of neprilysin, a crucial Aβ-degrading enzyme, in 5XFAD mice with advanced age. These findings demonstrate that partial BACE1 suppression cannot attenuate deleterious BACE1-elevating or neprilysin-reducing mechanisms, limiting its capabilities to reduce cerebral Aβ accumulation and rescue memory defects during the course of AD development.
PMCID: PMC3731791  PMID: 23880880
amyloid; BACE1; elF2α; learning and memory; neprilysin; PERK
15.  Function, therapeutic potential and cell biology of BACE proteases: current status and future prospects 
Journal of neurochemistry  2014;130(1):4-28.
The β-site APP cleaving enzymes 1 and 2 (BACE1 and BACE2) were initially identified as transmembrane aspartyl proteases cleaving the amyloid precursor protein (APP). BACE1 is a major drug target for Alzheimer’s disease because BACE1-mediated cleavage of APP is the first step in the generation of the pathogenic amyloid-β peptides. BACE1, which is highly expressed in the nervous system, is also required for myelination by cleaving neuregulin 1. Several recent proteomic and in vivo studies usingBACE1-andBACE2-deficient mice demonstrate a much wider range of physiological substrates and functions for both proteases within and outside of the nervous system. For BACE1 this includes axon guidance, neurogenesis, muscle spindle formation, and neuronal network functions, whereas BACE2 was shown to be involved in pigmentation and pancreatic β-cell function. This review highlights the recent progress in understanding cell biology, substrates, and functions of BACE proteases and discusses the therapeutic options and potential mechanism-based liabilities, in particular for BACE inhibitors in Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC4086641  PMID: 24646365
Alzheimer’s disease; BACE1; BACE2; protease; regulated intramembrane proteolysis; secretase
16.  Beta-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme-1 (BACE1)-mediated changes of endogenous amyloid beta in wild-type and transgenic mice in vivo 
Neuroscience letters  2008;435(3):186-189.
Beta-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme-1 (BACE1) initiates generation of amyloid beta (Abeta), a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. We investigated the impact of BACE1 protein level on endogenous Abeta. Endogenous Abeta and BACE1 protein levels were concurrently and significantly reduced during early life. However, Abeta levels were similar between BACE1 transgenic and wildtype mice. This suggests that BACE1 protein level has a minimal effect on the level of endogenous Abeta. Consequently, other factors must be involved in modulation of Abeta production in adult and ageing brain and investigation of such factors may yield therapeutic targets. Further, these results suggest that substantial inhibition of BACE1 in brain may be required for clinical benefit in Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC2377398  PMID: 18343582
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid beta; beta-site amyloid precursor protein (APP); cleaving enzyme-1 (BACE1); non-transgenic (wild-type) mice
17.  Can BACE1 Inhibition Mitigate Early Axonal Pathology in Neurological Diseases? 
β-Secretase-1 (BACE1) is the rate-limiting enzyme for the genesis of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides, the main constituents of the amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. BACE1 is being evaluated as an anti-Aβ target for AD therapy. Recent studies indicate that BACE1 elevation is associated with axonal and presynaptic pathology during plaque development. Evidence also points to a biological role for BACE1 in axonal outgrowth and synapse formation during development. Axonal, including presynaptic, pathology exists in AD as well as many other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, stroke, and trauma. In this review, we discuss pharmaceutical BACE1 inhibition as a therapeutic option for axonal pathogenesis, in addition to amyloid pathology. We first introduce the amyloidogenic processing of amyloid-β protein precursor and describe the normal expression pattern of the amyloidogenic proteins in the brain, with an emphasis on BACE1. We then address BACE1 elevation relative to amyloid plaque development, followed by updating recent understanding of a neurotrophic role of BACE1 in axon and synapse development. We further elaborate the occurrence of axonal pathology in some other neurological conditions. Finally, we propose pharmacological inhibition of excessive BACE1 activity as an option to mitigate early axonal pathology occurring in AD and other neurological disorders.
PMCID: PMC3995167  PMID: 24081378
aging; Alzheimer’s disease; anti-amyloid therapy; dementia; dystrophic neurites; neurodegenerative disorders; neuroplasticity; senile plaques; synaptic dysfunction
18.  Mossy fiber LTP deficits in BACE1 knockouts can be rescued by activation of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors 
Beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1)–the neuronal β-secretase responsible for producing β-amyloid (Aβ) peptides–emerged as one of the key therapeutic targets of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although complete ablation of the BACE1 gene prevents Aβ formation, we reported that BACE1 knockout mice display severe presynaptic deficits at mossy fiber (MF) to CA3 synapses in the hippocampus, a major locus of BACE1 expression. We also found that the deficits are likely due to abnormal presynaptic Ca2+ regulation. Cholinergic system has been implicated in AD, in some cases involving Ca2+-permeable α7-nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Here we report that brief application of nicotine, via α7-nAChRs, can restore mossy fiber LTP (mfLTP) in BACE1 knockouts. Our data suggest that activating α7-nAChRs can recover the presynaptic deficits in BACE1 knockouts.
PMCID: PMC3137882  PMID: 20943921
long-term potentiation; presynaptic; paired-pulse facilitation; beta-secretase; Alzheimer's disease; α7-nAchR
19.  Oxidative stress activates a positive feedback between the γ- and β-secretase cleavages of the β-amyloid precursor protein 
Journal of neurochemistry  2007;104(3):683-695.
Sequential cleavages of the β-amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) by β-secretase and γ-secretase generate the amyloid β-peptides, believed to be responsible of synaptic dysfunction and neuronal cell death in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Levels of BACE1 are increased in vulnerable regions of the AD brain, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. Here we show that oxidative stress (OS) stimulates BACE1 expression by a mechanism requiring γ-secretase activity involving the c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/c-jun pathway. BACE1 levels are increased in response to OS in normal cells, but not in cells lacking presenilins or amyloid precursor protein. Moreover, BACE1 is induced in association with OS in the brains of mice subjected to cerebral ischaemia/reperfusion. The OS-induced BACE1 expression correlates with an activation of JNK and c-jun, but is absent in cultured cells or mice lacking JNK. Our findings suggest a mechanism by which OS induces BACE1 transcription, thereby promoting production of pathological levels of amyloid β in AD.
PMCID: PMC2220052  PMID: 18005001
Alzheimer's Disease; BACE1; JNK pathway; oxidative stress; γ-secretase
20.  Beta-amyloid precursor protein cleavage enzyme 1 (BACE1) knockouts display deficits in activity-dependent potentiation of synaptic transmission at mossy fiber to CA3 synapses in the hippocampus 
Beta-amyloid precursor protein cleavage enzyme 1 (BACE1) has been identified as a major neuronal β-secretase critical for the formation of β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide, which is thought responsible for the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Therefore, BACE1 is one of the key therapeutic targets that can prevent the progression of AD. Previous studies showed that knocking out the BACE1 gene prevents Aβ formation, but results in behavioral deficits and specific synaptic dysfunctions at Schaffer collateral to CA1 synapses. However, BACE1 protein is most highly expressed at the mossy fiber projections in CA3. Here we report that BACE1 knockout mice display reduced presynaptic function, as measured by an increase in paired-pulse facilitation ratio. More dramatically, mossy fiber LTP, which is normally expressed via an increase in presynaptic release, was eliminated in the knockouts. While LTD was slightly larger in the BACE1 knockouts, it could not be reversed. The specific deficit in mossy fiber LTP was upstream of cAMP signaling, and could be “rescued” by transiently elevating extracellular Ca2+ concentration. These results suggest that BACE1 may play a critical role in regulating presynaptic function, especially activity-dependent strengthening of presynaptic release, at mossy fiber synapses.
PMCID: PMC2728626  PMID: 18753368
long-term potentiation; long-term depression; presynaptic; paired-pulse facilitation; beta-secretase; Alzheimer’s disease
21.  Knockdown of BACE1-AS Nonprotein-Coding Transcript Modulates Beta-Amyloid-Related Hippocampal Neurogenesis 
Background. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a devastating neurological disorder and the main cause of dementia in the elderly population worldwide. Adult neurogenesis appears to be upregulated very early in AD pathogenesis in response to some specific aggregates of beta-amyloid (Aβ) peptides, exhausting the neuronal stem cell pools in the brain. Previously, we characterized a conserved nonprotein-coding antisense transcript for β-secretase-1 (BACE1), a critical enzyme in AD pathophysiology. We showed that the BACE1-antisense transcript (BACE1-AS) is markedly upregulated in brain samples from AD patients and promotes the stability of the (sense) BACE1 transcript. In the current paper, we examine the relationship between BACE1, BACE1-AS, adult neurogenesis markers, and amyloid plaque formation in amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic mice (Tg-19959) of various ages. Results. Consistent with previous publications in other APP overexpressing mouse models, we found adult neurogenesis markers to be noticeably upregulated in Tg-19959 mice very early in the development of the disease. Knockdown of either one of BACE1 or BACE1-AS transcripts by continuous infusion of locked nucleic acid- (LNA-) modified siRNAs into the third ventricle over the period of two weeks caused concordant downregulation of both transcripts in Tg-19959 mice. Downregulation of BACE1 mRNA was followed by reduction of BACE1 protein and insoluble Aβ. Modulation of BACE1 and BACE1-AS transcripts also altered oligomeric Aβ aggregation pattern, which was in turn associated with an increase in neurogenesis markers at the RNA and protein level. Conclusion. We found alterations in the RNA and protein concentrations of several adult neurogenesis markers, as well as non-protein-coding BACE1-AS transcripts, in parallel with the course of β-amyloid synthesis and aggregation in the brain of Tg15999 mice. In addition, by knocking down BACE1 or BACE1-AS (thereby reducing Aβ production and plaque deposition), we were able to modulate expression of these neurogenesis markers. Our findings suggest a distortion of adult neurogenesis that is associated with Aβ production very early in amyloid pathogenesis. We believe that these alterations, at the molecular level, could prove useful as novel therapeutic targets and/or as early biomarkers of AD.
PMCID: PMC3139208  PMID: 21785702
22.  A tale of two drug targets: the evolutionary history of BACE1 and BACE2 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:293.
The beta amyloid (APP) cleaving enzyme (BACE1) has been a drug target for Alzheimer's Disease (AD) since 1999 with lead inhibitors now entering clinical trials. In 2011, the paralog, BACE2, became a new target for type II diabetes (T2DM) having been identified as a TMEM27 secretase regulating pancreatic β cell function. However, the normal roles of both enzymes are unclear. This study outlines their evolutionary history and new opportunities for functional genomics. We identified 30 homologs (UrBACEs) in basal phyla including Placozoans, Cnidarians, Choanoflagellates, Porifera, Echinoderms, Annelids, Mollusks and Ascidians (but not Ecdysozoans). UrBACEs are predominantly single copy, show 35–45% protein sequence identity with mammalian BACE1, are ~100 residues longer than cathepsin paralogs with an aspartyl protease domain flanked by a signal peptide and a C-terminal transmembrane domain. While multiple paralogs in Trichoplax and Monosiga pre-date the nervous system, duplication of the UrBACE in fish gave rise to BACE1 and BACE2 in the vertebrate lineage. The latter evolved more rapidly as the former maintained the emergent neuronal role. In mammals, Ka/Ks for BACE2 is higher than BACE1 but low ratios for both suggest purifying selection. The 5' exons show higher Ka/Ks than the catalytic section. Model organism genomes show the absence of certain BACE human substrates when the UrBACE is present. Experiments could thus reveal undiscovered substrates and roles. The human protease double-target status means that evolutionary trajectories and functional shifts associated with different substrates will have implications for the development of clinical candidates for both AD and T2DM. A rational basis for inhibition specificity ratios and assessing target-related side effects will be facilitated by a more complete picture of BACE1 and BACE2 functions informed by their evolutionary context.
PMCID: PMC3865767  PMID: 24381583
BACE1; BACE2; Alzheimer's Disease; type II diabetes; protein family evolution
23.  In Silico Design of BACE1 Inhibitor for Alzheimer's Disease by Traditional Chinese Medicine 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:741703.
The β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) is an important target for causing Alzheimer's disease (AD), due to the brain deposition peptide amyloid beta (Aβ) require cleavages of amyloid precursor protein (APP) by BACE1 and γ-secretase, but treatments of AD still have side effect in recent therapy. This study utilizes the world largest traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) database and database screening to provide potential BACE1 inhibited compound. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulation was carried out to observe the dynamics structure after ligand binding. We found that Triptofordin B1 has less toxicity than pyrimidine analogue, which has more potent binding affinity with BACE1. For trajectory analysis, all conformations are tending to be stable during 5000 ps simulation time. In dynamic protein validation, the residues of binding region are still stable after MD simulation. For snapshot comparison, we found that Triptofordin B1 could reduce the binding cavity; the results reveal that Triptofordin B1 could bind to BACE1 and better than control, which could be used as potential lead drug to design novel BACE1 inhibitor for AD therapy.
PMCID: PMC4034430  PMID: 24900984
24.  β-Secretases, Alzheimer's Disease, and Down Syndrome 
Individuals with Down Syndrome (DS), or trisomy 21, develop Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology by approximately 40 years of age. Chromosome 21 harbors several genes implicated in AD, including the amyloid precursor protein and one homologue of the β-site APP cleaving enzyme, BACE2. Processing of the amyloid precursor protein by β-secretase (BACE) is the rate-limiting step in the production of the pathogenic Aβ peptide. Increased amounts of APP in the DS brain result in increased amounts of Aβ and extracellular plaque formation beginning early in life. BACE dysregulation potentially represents an overlapping biological mechanism with sporadic AD and a common therapeutic target. As the lifespan for those with DS continues to increase, age-related concerns such as obesity, depression, and AD are of growing concern. The ability to prevent or delay the progression of neurodegenerative diseases will promote healthy aging and improve quality of life for those with DS.
PMCID: PMC3299320  PMID: 22481915
25.  The Alzheimer’s β-secretase BACE1 localizes to normal presynaptic terminals and to dystrophic presynaptic terminals surrounding amyloid plaques 
Acta Neuropathologica  2013;126:329-352.
β-Site amyloid precursor protein (APP) cleaving enzyme-1 (BACE1) is the β-secretase that initiates Aβ production in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). BACE1 levels are increased in AD, which could contribute to pathogenesis, yet the mechanism of BACE1 elevation is unclear. Furthermore, the normal function of BACE1 is poorly understood. We localized BACE1 in the brain at both the light and electron microscopic levels to gain insight into normal and pathophysiologic roles of BACE1 in health and AD, respectively. Our findings provide the first ultrastructural evidence that BACE1 localizes to vesicles (likely endosomes) in normal hippocampal mossy fiber terminals of both non-transgenic and APP transgenic (5XFAD) mouse brains. In some instances, BACE1-positive vesicles were located near active zones, implying a function for BACE1 at the synapse. In addition, BACE1 accumulated in swollen dystrophic autophagosome-poor presynaptic terminals surrounding amyloid plaques in 5XFAD cortex and hippocampus. Importantly, accumulations of BACE1 and APP co-localized in presynaptic dystrophies, implying increased BACE1 processing of APP in peri-plaque regions. In primary cortical neuron cultures, treatment with the lysosomal protease inhibitor leupeptin caused BACE1 levels to increase; however, exposure of neurons to the autophagy inducer trehalose did not reduce BACE1 levels. This suggests that BACE1 is degraded by lysosomes but not by autophagy. Our results imply that BACE1 elevation in AD could be linked to decreased lysosomal degradation of BACE1 within dystrophic presynaptic terminals. Elevated BACE1 and APP levels in plaque-associated presynaptic dystrophies could increase local peri-plaque Aβ generation and accelerate amyloid plaque growth in AD.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-013-1152-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3753469  PMID: 23820808
Alzheimer’s disease; BACE1; β-Secretase; Aβ; Amyloid plaque; Dystrophic neurite; Lysosome; Autophagy

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