AD (Alzheimer's disease) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by a gradual loss of neurons and the accumulation of neurotoxic Aβ (amyloid β-peptide) and hyperphosphorylated tau. The discovery of mutations in three genes, PSEN1 (presenilin 1), PSEN2 (presenilin 2) and APP (amyloid precursor protein), in patients with FAD (familial AD) has made an important contribution towards an understanding of the disease aetiology; however, a complete molecular mechanism is still lacking. Both presenilins belong to the γ-secretase complex, and serve as the catalytic entity needed for the final cleavage of APP into Aβ. PSEN only functions within the γ-secretase complex through intra- and inter-molecular interactions with three other membrane components, including nicastrin, Aph-1 (anterior pharynx defective-1) and Pen-2 (PSEN enhancer-2). However, although the list of γ-secretase substrates is still expanding, other non-catalytic activities of presenilins are also increasing the complexity behind its molecular contribution towards AD. These γ-secretase-independent roles are so far mainly attributed to PSEN1, including the transport of membrane proteins, cell adhesion, ER (endoplasmic reticulum) Ca2+ regulation and cell signalling. In the present minireview, we discuss the current understanding of the γ-secretase-independent roles of PSENs and their possible implications in respect of AD.

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