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J Neurochem. 1991 Nov;57(5):1577-83.

Proteolysis of microtubule-associated protein 2 and tubulin by cathepsin D.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Alabama, Birmingham 35294.


The in vitro degradation of microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP-2) and tubulin by the lysosomal aspartyl endopeptidase cathepsin D was studied. MAP-2 was very sensitive to cathepsin D-induced hydrolysis in a relatively broad, acidic pH range (3.0-5.0). However, at a pH value of 5.5, cathepsin D-mediated hydrolysis of MAP-2 was significantly reduced and at pH 6.0 only a small amount of MAP-2 was degraded at 60 min. Interestingly, the two electrophoretic forms of MAP-2 showed different sensitivities to cathepsin D-induced degradation, with MAP-2b being significantly more resistant to hydrolysis than MAP-2a. To our knowledge, this is the first clear demonstration that MAP-2 is a substrate in vitro for cathepsin D. In contrast to MAP-2, tubulin was relatively resistant to cathepsin D-induced hydrolysis. At pH 3.5 and an enzyme-to-substrate ratio of 1: 20, only 35% of the tubulin was degraded by cathepsin D at 60 min. The cathepsin D-mediated hydrolysis of tubulin was optimal only at pH 4.5. These results demonstrate that MAP-2 and tubulin are unequally susceptible to degradation by cathepsin D. These data also imply a potential for rapid degradation of MAP-2 in vivo by cathepsin D either in lysosomes or perhaps autophagic vacuoles of the neuron.

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