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Biochemistry. 2000 Jan 25;39(3):508-15.

Plasminogen-independent initiation of the pro-urokinase activation cascade in vivo. Activation of pro-urokinase by glandular kallikrein (mGK-6) in plasminogen-deficient mice.

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  • 1The Finsen Laboratory, Rigshospitalet, Strandboulevarden 49, DK-2100 Copenhagen O, Denmark.


The plasminogen activation (PA) system is involved in the degradation of fibrin and various extracellular matrix proteins, taking part in a number of physiological and pathological tissue remodeling processes including cancer invasion. This system is organized as a classical proteolytic cascade, and as for other cascade systems, understanding the physiological initiation mechanism is of central importance. The attempts to identify initiation routes for activation of the proform of the key enzyme urokinase-type plasminogen activator (pro-uPA) in vivo have been hampered by the strong activator potency of the plasmin, that is generated during the progress of the cascade. Using gene-targeted mice deficient in plasminogen (Plg -/- mice) [Bugge, T. H., Flick, M. J., Daugherty, C. C., and Degen, J. L. (1995) Genes Dev. 9, 794-807], we have now demonstrated and identified a component capable of initiating the cascade by activating pro-uPA. The urine from Plg -/- mice contained active two-chain uPA as well as a proteinase capable of activating exogenously added pro-uPA. The active component was purified and identified by mass spectrometry-based peptide mapping as mouse glandular kallikrein mGK-6 (true tissue kallikrein). The pro-uPA converting activity of the mGK-6 enzyme, as well as its ability to cleave a synthetic substrate for glandular kallikrein, was inhibited by the serine proteinase inhibitor leupeptin but not by other serine proteinase inhibitors such as aprotinin, antithrombin III, or alpha(1)-antitrypsin. We suggest that mouse glandular kallikrein mGK-6 is an activator of pro-uPA in the mouse urinary tract in vivo. Since this kallikrein is expressed in a number of tissues and also occurs in plasma, it can also be considered a candidate for a physiological pro-uPA activator in other locations.

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