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BACE knockout mice are healthy despite lacking the primary beta-secretase activity in brain: implications for Alzheimer's disease therapeutics.

Authors:
Roberds SL, Anderson J, Basi G, Bienkowski MJ, Branstetter DG, Chen KS, Freedman SB, Frigon NL, Games D, Hu K, Johnson-Wood K, Kappenman KE, Kawabe TT, Kola I, Kuehn R, Lee M, Liu W, Motter R, Nichols NF, Power M, Robertson DW, Schenk D, Schoor M, Shopp GM, Shuck ME, Sinha S, Svensson KA, Tatsuno G, Tintrup H, Wijsman J, Wright S, McConlogue L
Affiliation:
Journal:
Human molecular genetics

Abstract

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by accumulation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. The major components of plaque, beta-amyloid peptides (Abetas), are produced from amyloid precursor protein (APP) by the activity of beta- and gamma-secretases. beta-secretase activity cleaves APP to define the N-terminus of the Abeta1-x peptides and, therefore, has been a long- sought therapeutic target for treatment of AD. The gene encoding a beta-secretase for beta-site APP cleaving enzyme (BACE) was identified recently. However, it was not known whether BACE was the primary beta-secretase in mammalian brain nor whether inhibition of beta-secretase might have effects in mammals that would preclude its utility as a therapeutic target. In the work described herein, we generated two lines of BACE knockout mice and characterized them for pathology, beta-secretase activity and Abeta production. These mice appeared to develop normally and showed no consistent phenotypic differences from their wild-type littermates, including overall normal tissue morphology and brain histochemistry, normal blood and urine chemistries, normal blood-cell composition, and no overt behavioral and neuromuscular effects. Brain and primary cortical cultures from BACE knockout mice showed no detectable beta-secretase activity, and primary cortical cultures from BACE knockout mice produced much less Abeta from APP. The findings that BACE is the primary beta-secretase activity in brain and that loss of beta-secretase activity produces no profound phenotypic defects with a concomitant reduction in beta-amyloid peptide clearly indicate that BACE is an excellent therapeutic target for treatment of AD.

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