The trafficking behavior of the lipid raft-dwelling US9 protein from Herpes Simplex Virus strikingly overlaps with that of the amyloid precursor protein (APP). Both US9 and APP processing machinery rely on their ability to shuttle between endosomes and plasma membranes, as well as on their lateral accumulation in lipid rafts. Therefore, repurposing US9 to track/modify these molecular events represents a valid approach to investigate pathological states including Alzheimer's disease and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders where APP misprocessing to amyloid beta formation has been observed. Accordingly, we investigated the cellular localization of US9-driven cargo in neurons and created a US9-driven functional assay based on the exogenous enzymatic activity of Tobacco Etch Virus Protease. Our results demonstrate that US9 can direct and control cleavage of recombinant proteins exposed on the luminal leaflet of transport vesicles. Furthermore, we confirmed that US9 is associated with lipid-rafts and can target functional enzymes to membrane microdomains where pathologic APP-processing is thought to occur. Overall, our results suggest strongly that US9 can serve as a molecular driver that targets functional cargos to the APP machinery and can be used as a tool to study the contribution of lipid rafts to neurodegenerative disease conditions where amyloidogenesis has been implicated.
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