The progressive accumulation of beta-amyloid (Abeta) in senile plaques and in the cerebral vasculature is the hallmark of Alzheimer disease and related disorders. Impaired clearance of Abeta from the brain likely contributes to the prevalent sporadic form of Alzheimer disease. Several major pathways for Abeta clearance include receptor-mediated cellular uptake, blood-brain barrier transport, and direct proteolytic degradation. Myelin basic protein (MBP) is the major structural protein component of myelin and plays a functional role in the formation and maintenance of the myelin sheath. MBP possesses endogenous serine proteinase activity and can undergo autocatalytic cleavage liberating distinct fragments. Recently, we showed that MBP binds Abeta and inhibits Abeta fibril formation (Hoos, M. D., Ahmed, M., Smith, S. O., and Van Nostrand, W. E. (2007) J. Biol. Chem. 282, 9952-9961; Hoos, M. D., Ahmed, M., Smith, S. O., and Van Nostrand, W. E. (2009) Biochemistry 48, 4720-4727). Here we show that Abeta40 and Abeta42 peptides are degraded by purified human brain MBP and recombinant human MBP, but not an MBP fragment that lacks autolytic activity. MBP-mediated Abeta degradation is inhibited by serine proteinase inhibitors. Similarly, Cos-1 cells expressing MBP degrade exogenous Abeta40 and Abeta42. In addition, we demonstrate that purified MBP also degrades assembled fibrillar Abeta in vitro. Mass spectrometry analysis identified distinct degradation products generated from Abeta digestion by MBP. Lastly, we demonstrate in situ that purified MBP can degrade parenchymal amyloid plaques as well as cerebral vascular amyloid that form in brain tissue of Abeta precursor protein transgenic mice. Together, these findings indicate that purified MBP possesses Abeta degrading activity in vitro.
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