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Amyloid beta peptide is the major constituent of amyloid plaques in the brains of individuals afflicted with Alzheimer"e;s disease. This peptide is generated from the beta-amyloid precursor protein (beta APP) in a two-step process. The first step involves cleavage of the extracellular, amino-terminal domain of beta APP. Protein cleavage is performed by an aspartyl protease termed beta-secretase (BACE). This enzyme is synthesized as a propeptide that must be modified to the mature and active form by the prohormone convertase, furin. Beta APP cleavage by the mature form of BACE results in the cellular secretion of a segment of beta APP and a membrane-bound remnant. This remnant is then processed by another protease termed gamma-secretase. Gamma-secretase cleaves an intra-membrane site in the carboxyl-terminal domain of beta APP, thus generating the amyloid beta peptide.
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