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J Biol Chem. 1988 Apr 5;263(10):4612-8.

Proteolytic processing of pro-alpha and pro-beta precursors from human beta-hexosaminidase. Generation of the mature alpha and beta a beta b subunits.

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  • 1Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


There are two major isozymes of human lysosomal beta-hexosaminidase (beta-N-acetylhexosaminidase, EC, hexosaminidase A, alpha(beta a beta b), and hexosaminidase B, 2(beta a beta b). The alpha subunit contains a single polypeptide chain, while the beta subunit is composed of two nonidentical chains (beta a and beta b) derived from a common pro-beta precursor. The mature subunits, like those of most lysosomal enzymes, are produced through the proteolytic processing of propolypeptides once they enter the lysosome. In order to define the structure of the alpha and beta subunits generated in the lysosome, the alpha, beta a, and beta b polypeptides of hexosaminidase A and B were separated by a combination of molecular sieve and ion exchange high performance liquid chromatography, and amino-terminal sequences were determined. These were localized to the deduced amino acid sequences of previously isolated cDNAs coding for the prepro-alpha and beta polypeptides. From this analysis, the sites of hydrolysis generating the mature alpha, beta a, and beta b chains from hexosaminidase A and B could be determined. First, the signal peptide, required for processing of the pre-propolypeptides through the rough endoplasmic reticulum was predicted from the first in-frame Met residue on the cDNA. Second, amino acid sequencing defined the amino termini of the mature polypeptide chains and identified the pro-sequences removed from both the pro-alpha and pro-beta polypeptides. Third, an internal cleavage resulted in the removal of a tetrapeptide, Arg-Gln-Asn-Lys, and tripeptide, Arg-Gln-Asn, from the pro-beta chain of hexosaminidase A and B, respectively , to generate the beta b and beta a chains. This result localized the beta b and beta a chains to the amino-terminal and carboxyl-terminal halves of the pro-beta sequence, respectively. Finally, we previously reported minimal or no carboxyl-terminal processing of the pro-beta chain in the lysosome. On the other hand, we suggest that there is trimming at the carboxyl terminus of the pro-alpha chain based on comparison of molecular weights of deglycosylated alpha with the isolated beta b and beta a chains comprising the mature beta subunit with those predicted from the cDNA. Thus, in the lysosome the pro forms of hexosaminidase A and B undergo extensive proteolytic processing which, while specific in nature, has the appearance of removing easily accessible, nonessential domains, rather than contributing to biosynthetic maturation of function.

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