β-Secretase 1 (β-site amyloid precursor protein [APP]-cleaving enzyme 1, BACE1) plays a crucial role in the amyloidogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). BACE1 was also discovered to act like an auxiliary subunit to modulate neuronal KCNQ2/3 channels independently of its proteolytic function. BACE1 is palmitoylated at its carboxyl-terminal region, which brings BACE1 to ordered, cholesterol-rich membrane microdomains (lipid rafts). However, the physiological consequences of this specific localization of BACE1 remain elusive. Using spectral Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), BACE1 and KCNQ2/3 channels were confirmed to form a signaling complex, a phenomenon that was relatively independent of the palmitoylation of BACE1. Nevertheless, palmitoylation of BACE1 was required for recruitment of KCNQ2/3 channels to lipid-raft domains. Two fluorescent probes, designated L10 and S15, were used to label lipid-raft and non-raft domains of the plasma membrane, respectively. Coexpressing BACE1 substantially elevated FRET between L10 and KCNQ2/3, whereas the BACE1-4C/A quadruple mutation failed to produce this effect. In contrast, BACE1 had no significant effect on FRET between S15 probes and KCNQ2/3 channels. A reduction of BACE1-dependent FRET between raft-targeting L10 probes and KCNQ2/3 channels by applying the cholesterol-extracting reagent methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD), raft-disrupting general anesthetics, or pharmacological inhibitors of palmitoylation, all supported the hypothesis of the palmitoylation-dependent and raft-specific localization of KCNQ2/3 channels. Furthermore, mutating the four carboxyl-terminal cysteines (4C/A) of BACE1 abolished the BACE1-dependent increase of FRET between KCNQ2/3 and the lipid raft–specific protein caveolin 1. Taking these data collectively, we propose that the AD-related protein BACE1 underlies the localization of a neuronal potassium channel.

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