Substrate processing in intramembrane proteolysis by γ-secretase - the role of protein dynamics
Intramembrane proteases comprise a number of different membrane proteins with different types of catalytic sites. Their common denominator is cleavage within the plane of the membrane, which usually results in peptide bond scission within the transmembrane helices of their substrates. Despite recent progress in the determination of high-resolution structures, as illustrated here for the γ-secretase complex and its substrate C99, it is still unknown how these enzymes function and how they distinguish between substrates and non-substrates. In principle, substrate/non-substrate discrimination could occur at the level of substrate binding and/or cleavage. Focusing on the γ-secretase/C99 pair, we will discuss recent observations suggesting that global motions within a substrate transmembrane helix may be much more important for defining a substrate than local unraveling at cleavage sites.