Inefficient quality control of ribosome stalling during APP synthesis generates CAT-tailed species that precipitate hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1186/s40478-021-01268-6
Amyloid precursor protein (APP) metabolism is central to Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis, but the key etiological driver remains elusive. Recent failures of clinical trials targeting amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides, the proteolytic fragments of amyloid precursor protein (APP) that are the main component of amyloid plaques, suggest that the proteostasis-disrupting, key pathogenic species remain to be identified. Previous studies suggest that APP C-terminal fragment (APP.C99) can cause disease in an Aβ-independent manner. The mechanism of APP.C99 pathogenesis is incompletely understood. We used Drosophila models expressing APP.C99 with the native ER-targeting signal of human APP, expressing full-length human APP only, or co-expressing full-length human APP and β-secretase (BACE), to investigate mechanisms of APP.C99 pathogenesis. Key findings are validated in mammalian cell culture models, mouse 5xFAD model, and postmortem AD patient brain materials. We find that ribosomes stall at the ER membrane during co-translational translocation of APP.C99, activating ribosome-associated quality control (RQC) to resolve ribosome collision and stalled translation. Stalled APP.C99 species with C-terminal extensions (CAT-tails) resulting from inadequate RQC are prone to aggregation, causing endolysosomal and autophagy defects and seeding the aggregation of amyloid β peptides, the main component of amyloid plaques. Genetically removing stalled and CAT-tailed APP.C99 rescued proteostasis failure, endolysosomal/autophagy dysfunction, neuromuscular degeneration, and cognitive deficits in AD models. Our finding of RQC factor deposition at the core of amyloid plaques from AD brains further supports the central role of defective RQC of ribosome collision and stalled translation in AD pathogenesis. These findings demonstrate that amyloid plaque formation is the consequence and manifestation of a deeper level proteostasis failure caused by inadequate RQC of translational stalling and the resultant aberrantly modified APP.C99 species, previously unrecognized etiological drivers of AD and newly discovered therapeutic targets.