PloS one

Modulators of γ-secretase activity can facilitate the toxic side-effects and pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.

PMID 23308095


Selective modulation of different Aβ products of an intramembrane protease γ-secretase, could be the most promising strategy for development of effective therapies for Alzheimer's disease. We describe how different drug-candidates can modulate γ-secretase activity in cells, by studying how DAPT affects changes in γ-secretase activity caused by gradual increase in Aβ metabolism. Aβ 1-40 secretion in the presence of DAPT shows biphasic activation-inhibition dose-response curves. The biphasic mechanism is a result of modulation of γ-secretase activity by multiple substrate and inhibitor molecules that can bind to the enzyme simultaneously. The activation is due to an increase in γ-secretase's kinetic affinity for its substrate, which can make the enzyme increasingly more saturated with otherwise sub-saturating substrate. The noncompetitive inhibition that prevails at the saturating substrate can decrease the maximal activity. The synergistic activation-inhibition effects can drastically reduce γ-secretase's capacity to process its physiological substrates. This reduction makes the biphasic inhibitors exceptionally prone to the toxic side-effects and potentially pathogenic. Without the modulation, γ-secretase activity on it physiological substrate in cells is only 14% of its maximal activity, and far below the saturation. Presented mechanism can explain why moderate inhibition of γ-secretase cannot lead to effective therapies, the pharmacodynamics of Aβ-rebound phenomenon, and recent failures of the major drug-candidates such as semagacestat. Novel improved drug-candidates can be prepared from competitive inhibitors that can bind to different sites on γ-secretase simultaneously. Our quantitative analysis of the catalytic capacity can facilitate the future studies of the therapeutic potential of γ-secretase and the pathogenic changes in Aβ metabolism.