Cathepsin protease activity modulates amyloid load in extracerebral amyloidosis

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In cerebral amyloidoses, such as Alzheimer's disease, proteolytic processing of the precursor protein is a fundamental mechanism of the disease, since it generates the amyloid protein. However, the putative significance of proteases in extracerebral amyloidoses is less well defined. In this study, we investigated the biological significance of cathepsin (Cath) B, CathK, and CathL in the pathology and pathogenesis of extracerebral amyloidoses by using the murine model of reactive or secondary AA amyloidosis with three different cathepsin-deficient mouse strains. Extracerebral AA amyloid was induced by injecting amyloid-enhancing factor and silver nitrate into CathB−/−, CathK−/−, and CathL−/− mice. Wild-type mice served as a control. CathK−/− mice deposited over 90% more amyloid and CathL−/− mice 60% less amyloid than the control (p< 0.0001). The amyloid load in CathB−/− mice did not differ from that in wild-type mice.In vitrodegradation experiments with recombinant human and murine serum amyloid A (SAA) 1.1 and CathK and CathL showed that CathL generates a large number of differently sized SAA cleavage products. One of these fragments spans the heparin/heparan sulphate binding site and the neutral cholesterol ester hydrolase activating region of SAA. CathK showed only endoproteolytic activity and did not generate any AA amyloid-like peptides. This study provides unequivocal evidence that proteases modulate amyloid load in extracerebral amyloidosis. CathL was identified as an amyloid-promoting and CathK as an amyloid-retarding cysteine protease. CathB may only modulate the primary structure of the amyloid peptide without affecting amyloid load.

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