The Journal of biological chemistry

Consensus analysis of signal peptide peptidase and homologous human aspartic proteases reveals opposite topology of catalytic domains compared with presenilins.

PMID 15385547


The human genome encodes seven intramembrane-cleaving GXGD aspartic proteases. These are the two presenilins that activate signaling molecules and are implicated in Alzheimer's disease, signal peptide peptidase (SPP), required for immune surveillance, and four SPP-like candidate proteases (SPPLs), of unknown function. Here we describe a comparative analysis of the topologies of SPP and its human homologues, SPPL2a, -2b, -2c, and -3. We demonstrate that their N-terminal extensions are located in the extracellular space and, except for SPPL3, are modified with N-glycans. Whereas SPPL2a, -2b, and -2c contain a signal sequence, SPP and SPPL3 contain a type I signal anchor sequence for initiation of protein translocation and membrane insertion. The hydrophilic loops joining the transmembrane regions, which contain the catalytic residues, are facing the exoplasm. The C termini of all these proteins are exposed toward the cytosol. Taken together, our study demonstrates that SPP and its homologues are all of the same principal structure with a catalytic domain embedded in the membrane in opposite orientation to that of presenilins. Other than presenilins, SPPL2a, -2b, -2c, and -3 are therefore predicted to cleave type II-oriented substrate peptides like the prototypic protease SPP.