Cathepsin D regulates cerebral Aβ42/40 ratios via differential degradation of Aβ42 and Aβ40

Caitlin N. Suire, Samer O. Abdul-Hay, Tomoko Sahara, Dongcheul Kang, Monica K. Brizuela, Paul Saftig, Dennis W. Dickson, Terrone L. Rosenberry, Malcolm A. Leissring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Cathepsin D (CatD) is a lysosomal protease that degrades both the amyloid β-protein (Aβ) and the microtubule-associated protein, tau, and has been genetically linked to late-onset Alzheimer disease (AD). Here, we sought to examine the consequences of genetic deletion of CatD on Aβ proteostasis in vivo and to more completely characterize the degradation of Aβ42 and Aβ40 by CatD. Methods: We quantified Aβ degradation rates and levels of endogenous Aβ42 and Aβ40 in the brains of CatD-null (CatD-KO), heterozygous null (CatD-HET), and wild-type (WT) control mice. CatD-KO mice die by ~ 4 weeks of age, so tissues from younger mice, as well as embryonic neuronal cultures, were investigated. Enzymological assays and surface plasmon resonance were employed to quantify the kinetic parameters (K M, k cat) of CatD-mediated degradation of monomeric human Aβ42 vs. Aβ40, and the degradation of aggregated Aβ42 species was also characterized. Competitive inhibition assays were used to interrogate the relative inhibition of full-length human and mouse Aβ42 and Aβ40, as well as corresponding p3 fragments. Results: Genetic deletion of CatD resulted in 3- to 4-fold increases in insoluble, endogenous cerebral Aβ42 and Aβ40, exceeding the increases produced by deletion of an insulin-degrading enzyme, neprilysin or both, together with readily detectable intralysosomal deposits of endogenous Aβ42 - all by 3 weeks of age. Quite significantly, CatD-KO mice exhibited ~ 30% increases in Aβ42/40 ratios, comparable to those induced by presenilin mutations. Mechanistically, the perturbed Aβ42/40 ratios were attributable to pronounced differences in the kinetics of degradation of Aβ42 vis-à-vis Aβ40. Specifically, Aβ42 shows a low-nanomolar affinity for CatD, along with an exceptionally slow turnover rate that, together, renders Aβ42 a highly potent competitive inhibitor of CatD. Notably, the marked differences in the processing of Aβ42 vs. Aβ40 also extend to p3 fragments ending at positions 42 vs. 40. Conclusions: Our findings identify CatD as the principal intracellular Aβ-degrading protease identified to date, one that regulates Aβ42/40 ratios via differential degradation of Aβ42 vs. Aβ40. The finding that Aβ42 is a potent competitive inhibitor of CatD suggests a possible mechanistic link between elevations in Aβ42 and downstream pathological sequelae in AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number80
JournalAlzheimer's Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 6 2020


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Amyloid-β protein
  • Cathepsin D
  • Lysosomes
  • Proteostasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Cathepsin D regulates cerebral Aβ42/40 ratios via differential degradation of Aβ42 and Aβ40'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this