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J Cell Biol. 2003 May 12;161(3):521-33. Epub 2003 May 5.

Proprotein convertase cleavage liberates a fibrillogenic fragment of a resident glycoprotein to initiate melanosome biogenesis.

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  • 1Dept. of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6082, USA.

Abstract

Lysosome-related organelles are cell type-specific intracellular compartments with distinct morphologies and functions. The molecular mechanisms governing the formation of their unique structural features are not known. Melanosomes and their precursors are lysosome-related organelles that are characterized morphologically by intralumenal fibrous striations upon which melanins are polymerized. The integral membrane protein Pmel17 is a component of the fibrils and can nucleate their formation in the absence of other pigment cell-specific proteins. Here, we show that formation of intralumenal fibrils requires cleavage of Pmel17 by a furin-like proprotein convertase (PC). As in the generation of amyloid, proper cleavage of Pmel17 liberates a lumenal domain fragment that becomes incorporated into the fibrils; longer Pmel17 fragments generated in the absence of PC activity are unable to form organized fibrils. Our results demonstrate that PC-dependent cleavage regulates melanosome biogenesis by controlling the fibrillogenic activity of a resident protein. Like the pathologic process of amyloidogenesis, the formation of other tissue-specific organelle structures may be similarly dependent on proteolytic activation of physiological fibrillogenic substrates.

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