The Journal of biological chemistry

Cathepsin L is responsible for processing and activation of proheparanase through multiple cleavages of a linker segment.

PMID 18450756


Heparanase is an endo-beta-d-glucuronidase that degrades heparan sulfate in the extracellular matrix and on the cell surface. Human proheparanase is produced as a latent protein of 543 amino acids whose activation involves excision of an internal linker segment (Ser(110)-Gln(157)), yielding the active heterodimer composed of 8- and 50-kDa subunits. Applying cathepsin L knock-out tissues and cultured fibroblasts, as well as cathepsin L gene silencing and overexpression strategies, we demonstrate, for the first time, that removal of the linker peptide and conversion of proheparanase into its active 8 + 50-kDa form is brought about predominantly by cathepsin L. Excision of a 10-amino acid peptide located at the C terminus of the linker segment between two functional cathepsin L cleavage sites (Y156Q and Y146Q) was critical for activation of proheparanase. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry demonstrates that the entire linker segment is susceptible to multiple endocleavages by cathepsin L, generating small peptides. Mass spectrometry demonstrated further that an active 8-kDa subunit can be generated by several alternative adjacent endocleavages, yielding the precise 8-kDa subunit and/or slightly elongated forms. Altogether, the mode of action presented here demonstrates that processing and activation of proheparanase can be brought about solely by cathepsin L. The critical involvement of cathepsin L in proheparanase processing and activation offers new strategies for inhibiting the prometastatic, proangiogenic, and proinflammatory activities of heparanase.

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