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Depletion of Beclin-1 due to proteolytic cleavage by caspases in the Alzheimer’s disease brain

  • Rohn, Troy T.
  • Wirawan, Ellen
  • Brown, Raquel J.
  • Harris, Jordan R.
  • Masliah, Eliezer
  • Vandenabeele, Peter
Publication Date
Nov 21, 2010
PubMed Central
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The Beclin-1 protein is essential for the initiation of autophagy and recent studies suggest this function may be compromised in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In addition, in vitro studies have supported a loss of function of Beclin-1 due to proteolytic modification by caspases. In the present study we examined whether caspase-cleavage of Beclin-1 occurs in the AD brain by designing a site-directed caspase-cleavage antibody based upon a known cleavage site within the protein at position D149. We confirmed that Beclin-1 is an excellent substrate for caspase-3 and demonstrate cleavage led to the formation of a 35 kDa C-terminal fragment labeled by our novel antibody following Western blot analysis. Application of this antibody termed Beclin-1 caspase-cleavage product antibody or BeclinCCP in frontal cortex tissue sections revealed strong immunolabeling within astrocytes that localized with plaque-regions and along blood vessels in all AD cases examined. In addition, weaker, more variable BeclinCCP labeling was also observed within neurofibrillary tangles that co-localized with the early tau conformational marker, MC-1 as well as the late tangle marker, PHF-1. Collectively, these data support a depletion of Beclin-1 in AD following caspase-cleavage.

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