, Volume 32, Issue 12, pp 2062-2071
Date: 03 May 2007

Brain-Specific Aminopeptidase: From Enkephalinase to Protector Against Neurodegeneration

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The major breakthrough discovery of enkephalins as endogenous opiates led our attempts to determine their inactivation mechanisms. Because the NH2-terminal tyrosine is absolutely necessary for the neuropeptides to exert analgesic effects, and aminopeptidase activities are extraordinarily high in the brain, a specific “amino-enkephalinase” should exist. Several aminopeptidases were identified in the central nervous system during the search. In fact, our laboratory found two novel neuron-specific aminopeptidases: NAP and NAP-2. NAP is the only functionally active brain-specific enzyme known. Its synaptic location coupled with its limited substrate specificity could constitute a “functional” specificity and contribute to enkephalin-specific functions. In addition, NAP was found to be essential for neuron growth, differentiation, and death. Thus, aminopeptidases are likely important for mental health and neurological diseases. Recently, puromycin-sensitive aminopeptidase (PSA) was identified as a modifier of tau-induced neurodegeneration. Because the enzymatic similarity between PSA and NAP, we believe that the depletion of NAP in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brains plays a causal role in the development of AD pathology. Therefore, use of the puromycin-sensitive neuron-aminopeptidase NAP could provide neuroprotective mechanisms in AD and similar neurodegenerative diseases.

Special issue in honor of Naren Banik.