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Biochem J. Apr 15, 2000; 347(Pt 2): 419–429.
PMCID: PMC1220974

Molecular cloning and biochemical characterization of a new mouse testis soluble-zinc-metallopeptidase of the neprilysin family.


Because of their roles in controlling the activity of several bio-active peptides, members of the neprilysin family of zinc metallopeptidases have been identified as putative targets for the design of therapeutic agents. Presently, six members have been reported, these are: neprilysin, endothelin-converting enzyme (ECE)-1 and ECE-2, the Kell blood group protein, PHEX (product of the phosphate-regulating gene with homologies to endopeptidase on the X chromosome) and X-converting enzyme (XCE). In order to identify new members of this important family of peptidases, we designed a reverse transcriptase-PCR strategy based on conserved amino acid sequences of neprilysin, ECE-1 and PHEX. We now report the cloning from mouse testis of a novel neprilysin-like peptidase that we called NL1. NL1 is a glycoprotein that, among the members of the family, shows the strongest sequence identity with neprilysin. However, in contrast with neprilysin and other members of the family which are type II integral membrane proteins, NL1 was secreted when expressed in cultured mammalian cells, likely due to cleavage by a subtilisin-like convertase at a furin-like site located 22 amino acid residues in the C-terminus of the transmembrane domain. The recombinant enzyme exhibited neprilysin-like peptidase activity and was efficiently inhibited by phosphoramidon and thiorphan, two inhibitors of neprilysin. Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization showed that NL1 mRNA was found predominantly in testis, specifically in round and elongated spermatids. This distribution of NL1 mRNA suggests that it could be involved in sperm formation or other processes related to fertility.

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