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J Biol Chem. 1992 Sep 25;267(27):19470-4.

The interglobular domain of cartilage aggrecan is cleaved by PUMP, gelatinases, and cathepsin B.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Australia.


The action of three matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), 72- and 95-kDa gelatinases (MMP-2 and MMP-9) and PUMP (MMP-7), and a cysteine proteinase, cathepsin B, were investigated on aggrecan the major proteoglycan of cartilage. All the enzymes cleaved aggrecan although the activity of the 95-kDa gelatinase was very low. Specific cleavage sites were investigated following incubation with a purified aggrecan G1-G2 domain fragment (150 kDa). Both gelatinases produced 110-kDa G2 and 56-kDa G1 products by a single cleavage at an Asn-Phe bond within the interglobular domain close to the G1 domain. This was similar to the action of stromelysin (MMP-3) (Fosang, A. J., Neame, P. J., Hardingham, T. E., Murphy, G., and Hamilton, J. A. (1991) J. Biol. Chem. 266, 15579-15582). Cathepsin B also produced two fragments from a single cleavage at a Gly-Val bond only three amino acids C-terminal to the metalloproteinase cleavage site. PUMP cleaved at the metalloproteinase Asn-Phe site, but in addition produced a low yield of a smaller G2 fragment (56 kDa) corresponding to cleavage between Asp441 and Leu442 (human sequence), within the interglobular domain, close to the G2 domain. The apparent difference in size between the two G2 fragments released by PUMP (110 and 56 kDa) was much greater than predicted from the peptide length between the cleavage sites (100 amino acids). However, keratanase digestion greatly reduced the size of the 110-kDa G2 fragment, while producing only a small reduction in size of the 56-kDa product, showing that there was approximately 30-40 kDa of keratan sulfate attached to the interglobular domain between the PUMP cleavage sites. This new structural information on aggrecan may account for the previously observed stiffness of the interglobular domains when viewed by rotary shadowing electron microscopy (Paulsson, M., Morgelin, M., Wiedemann, H., Beardmore-Gray, M., Dunham, D. G., Hardingham, T. E., Heinegard, D., Timpl, R., and Engel, J. (1987) Biochem. J. 245, 763-772). These results show that in spite of a high keratan sulfate content the interglobular domain provides important sites for cleavage by different proteinases, including several members of the matrix metalloproteinase family.

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