Signal transduction in Alzheimer disease: p21-activated kinase signaling requires C-terminal cleavage of APP at Asp664

Thuy Vi V. Nguyen, Veronica Galvan, Wei Huang, Surita Banwait, Huidong Tang, Junli Zhang, Dale E. Bredesen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The deficits in Alzheimer disease (AD) stem at least partly from neurotoxic β-amyloid peptides generated from the amyloid precursor protein (APP). APP may also be cleaved intracellularly at Asp664 to yield a second neurotoxic peptide, C31. Previously, we showed that cleavage of APP at the C-terminus is required for the impairments seen in APP transgenic mice, by comparing elements of the disease in animals modeling AD, with (platelet-derived growth factor B-chain promoter-driven APP transgenic mice; PDAPP) versus without (PDAPP D664A) a functional Asp664 caspase cleavage site. However, the signaling mechanism(s) by which Asp664 contributes to these deficits remains to be elucidated. In this study, we identify a kinase protein, recently shown to bind APP at the C-terminus and to contribute to AD, whose activity is modified in PDAPP mice, but normalized in PDAPP D664A mice. Specifically, we observed a significant increase in nuclear p21-activated kinase (isoforms 1, 2, and or 3; PAK-1/2/3) activation in hippocampus of 3 month old PDAPP mice compared with non-transgenic littermates, an effect completely prevented in PDAPP D664A mice. In contrast, 13 month old PDAPP mice displayed a significant decrease in PAK-1/2/3 activity, which was once again absent in PDAPP D664A mice. Similarly, in hippocampus of early and severe AD subjects, there was a progressive and subcellular-specific reduction in active PAK-1/2/3 compared with normal controls. Interestingly, total PAK-1/2/3 protein was increased in early AD subjects, but declined in moderate AD and declined further, to significantly below that of control levels, in severe AD. These findings are compatible with previous suggestions that PAK may be involved in the pathophysiology of AD, and demonstrate that both early activation and late inactivation in the murine AD model require the cleavage of APP at Asp664.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1065-1080
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • C31
  • Familial Alzheimer disease
  • Intracellular domain
  • Signal transduction
  • Transgenic mouse model
  • β-amyloid precursor protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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