gamma-Secretase is an intramembrane protease responsible for the generation of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides. Aberrant accumulation of Aβ leads to the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease. Nicastrin is the putative substrate-recruiting component of the gamma-secretase complex. No atomic-resolution structure has been identified on gamma-secreate or any of its four components, hindering mechanistic understanding of gamma-secretase function. Here we report the crystal structure of nicastrin from Dictyostelium purpureum at 1.95-Å resolution. The extracellular domain of nicastrin contains a large lobe and a small lobe. The large lobe of nicastrin, thought to be responsible for substrate recognition, associates with the small lobe through a hydrophobic pivot at the center. The putative substrate-binding pocket is shielded from the small lobe by a lid, which blocks substrate entry. These strutural features suggest a working model of nicastrin function. Analysis of nicastrin structure provides insights into the assembly and architecture of the gamma-secretase complex.
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