APH-1 and PEN-2 genes modulate the function of nicastrin and the presenilins in Caenorhabditis elegans. Preliminary studies in transfected mammalian cells overexpressing tagged APH-1 proteins suggest that this genetic interaction is mediated by a direct physical interaction. Using the APH-1 protein encoded on human chromosome 1 (APH-1(1)L; also known as APH-1a) as an archetype, we report here that endogenous forms of APH-1 are predominantly expressed in intracellular membrane compartments, including the endoplasmic reticulum and cis-Golgi. APH-1 proteins directly interact with immature and mature forms of the presenilins and nicastrin within high molecular weight complexes that display gamma- and epsilon-secretase activity. Indeed APH-1 proteins can bind to the nicastrin delta312-369 loss of function mutant, which does not undergo glycosylation maturation and is not trafficking beyond the endoplasmic reticulum. The levels of expression of endogenous APH-1(1)L can be suppressed by overexpression of any other members of the APH-1 family, suggesting that their abundance is coordinately regulated. Finally, although the absence of APH-1 destabilizes the presenilins, in contrast to nicastrin and PEN-2, APH-1 itself is only modestly destabilized in cells lacking functional expression of presenilin 1 or presenilin 2. Taken together, our data suggest that APH-1 proteins, and APH-1(1) in particular, may have a role in the initial assembly and maturation of presenilin.nicastrin complexes.
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