The Journal of biological chemistry

Metalloprotease-dependent protransforming growth factor-alpha ectodomain shedding in the absence of tumor necrosis factor-alpha-converting enzyme.

PMID 11600492


Zinc-dependent metalloproteases can mediate the shedding of the extracellular domain of many unrelated transmembrane proteins from the cell surface. In most instances, this process, also known as ectodomain shedding, is regulated via protein kinase C (PKC). The tumor necrosis factor alpha-converting enzyme (TACE) was the first protease involved in regulated protein ectodomain shedding identified. Although TACE belongs to the family of metalloprotease-disintegrins, few members of this family have been shown to participate in regulated ectodomain shedding. In fact, the phenotype of tace-/- cells and that of Chinese hamster ovary cell mutants defective in ectodomain shedding points to the existence of a common PKC-activated ectodomain shedding system, whose proteolytic component is TACE, that acts on a variety of transmembrane proteins. Examples of these proteins include the Alzheimer's disease-related protein beta-amyloid precursor protein (betaAPP) and the transmembrane growth factors protransforming growth factor-alpha (pro-TGF-alpha) and, as shown in this report, proheparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (pro-HB-EGF). Here we show that the mercurial compound 4-aminophenylmercuric acetate (APMA), frequently used to activate in vitro recombinant matrix metalloproteases, is an activator of the shedding of betaAPP, pro-HB-EGF, and pro-TGF-alpha. Treatment of tace-/- cells or Chinese hamster ovary shedding-defective mutants with APMA activates the cleavage of pro-TGF-alpha but not that of pro-HB-EGF or betaAPP, indicating that APMA activates TACE and also a previously unacknowledged proteolytic activity specific for pro-TGF-alpha. Characterization of this proteolytic activity indicates that it acts on pro-TGF-alpha located at the cell surface and that it is a metalloprotease active in cells defective in furin activity. In summary, treatment of shedding-defective cell lines with APMA unveils the existence of a metalloprotease activity alternative to TACE with the ability to specifically shed the ectodomain of pro-TGF-alpha.