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Blood. 1992 Mar 15;79(6):1532-7.

Characterization of defensin precursors in mature human neutrophils.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, UCLA-Center for the Health Sciences 90024-1876.


Human defensins HNP-1 and -3 are broad spectrum antimicrobial peptides that are synthesized by human neutrophils as 94 amino acid (aa) precursors that require proteolytic removal of 64 amino-terminal residues to produce the mature defensins. Recent studies have shown that the early proteolytic processing events include two sequential cleavages, each removing 19 amino-terminal aa residues, that yield 75 aa and 56 aa prodefensins, respectively. The subsequent processing steps that convert these 56 aa prodefensins to mature (30 aa) HNP-1 and HNP-3 are not yet known. We identified four new defensin precursors in mature normal neutrophils. The most abundant of these were two 39 aa forms that resulted from the monobasic endoproteolytic cleavage of proHNP-1 and proHNP-3. The presence of two proline residues in the vicinity of this newly defined scission site suggested that this cleavage might be "proline-directed." Smaller amounts of the 34 aa and 32 aa prodefensin forms were also found. It remains to be established if these 39, 34, and 32 aa prodefensins are obligate intermediates in the prodefensin processing pathway, or arise from side reactions. In either event, because these prodefensin intermediates accounted for only 0.25% of the total defensin content, proteolytic conversion of 56 aa prodefensins to mature defensins appears to be a highly efficient process.

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