Acetylcholinesterase promotes the aggregation of amyloid-beta-peptide fragments by forming a complex with the growing fibrils

A Alvarez, C Opazo, R Alarcón, J Garrido, N C Inestrosa
Journal of Molecular Biology 1997 September 26, 272 (3): 348-61
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme involved in the hydrolysis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, consistently colocalizes with the amyloid deposits characteristic of Alzheimer's disease and may contribute to the generation of amyloid proteins and/or physically affect fibril assembly. In order to identify the structural domains of the amyloid-beta-peptide (Abeta) involved in the aggregation induced by AChE, we have studied the effect of this cholinergic enzyme on Abeta peptide fragments of different sizes. AChE enhanced the aggregation of the Abeta(12-28) and Abeta(25-35) peptides but not of the Abeta(1-16) fragment. The inductive effect of AChE on the aggregation of Abeta(12-28) was abolished by the presence of either Abeta(1-16) or Abeta(9-21). The effect of the enzyme was also analysed using two different mutant fragments, possessing a low and the other a high capacity for fibrillogenesis. The fragments used were Abeta(12-28)Val18-->Ala and Abeta(12-28)Glu22-->Gln, respectively. AChE was able to promote the aggregation of these fragments in a very specific way and both mutant peptides were able to form amyloid fibrils, as revealed by negative staining under the electron microscope. Binding assays indicated that AChE was bound to Abeta(12-28), as well as to the Abeta(1-16) peptide. AChE was seen to form strong complexes with the Abeta(12-28) fibrils as such complexes stained positively for both thioflavine-T and AChE activity, were resistant to high ionic strength treatment, and were partially sensitive to detergents, suggesting that hydrophobic interactions may play a role in the stabilization of the AChE-Abeta complex. Our results suggest that such amyloid-AChE complexes are formed when AChE interacts with the growing amyloid fibrils and accelerates the assembly of Abeta peptides. This is consistent with the fact that AChE is known to be present within Abeta deposits including the pre-amyloid diffuse and mature senile plaques found in Alzheimer's brain.

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