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The Beclin-1 protein is essential for the initiation of autophagy and recent studies suggest this function may be compromised in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In addition, in vitro studies have supported a loss of function of Beclin-1 due to proteolytic modification by caspases. In the present study we examined whether caspase-cleavage of Beclin-1 occurs in the AD brain by designing a site-directed caspase-cleavage antibody based upon a known cleavage site within the protein at position D149. We confirmed that Beclin-1 is an excellent substrate for caspase-3 and demonstrate cleavage led to the formation of a 35 kDa C-terminal fragment labeled by our novel antibody following Western blot analysis. Application of this antibody termed Beclin-1 caspase-cleavage product antibody or BeclinCCP in frontal cortex tissue sections revealed strong immunolabeling within astrocytes that localized with plaque-regions and along blood vessels in all AD cases examined. In addition, weaker, more variable BeclinCCP labeling was also observed within neurofibrillary tangles that co-localized with the early tau conformational marker, MC-1 as well as the late tangle marker, PHF-1. Collectively, these data support a depletion of Beclin-1 in AD following caspase-cleavage.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. © 2009, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License ( The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Neurobiology of Disease, doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2010.11.003

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