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J Biol Chem. 2001 Aug 24;276(34):31502-9. Epub 2001 Jun 14.

Procollagen II amino propeptide processing by ADAMTS-3. Insights on dermatosparaxis.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-6500, USA.


The amino and carboxyl propeptides of procollagens I and II are removed by specific enzymes as a prerequisite for fibril assembly. Null mutations in procollagen I N-propeptidase (ADAMTS-2) cause dermatosparaxis in cattle and the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (dermatosparactic type) in humans by preventing proteolytic excision of the N-propeptide of procollagen I. We have found that procollagen II is processed normally in dermatosparactic nasal cartilage, suggesting the existence of another N-propeptidase(s). We investigated such a role for ADAMTS-3 in Swarm rat chondrosarcoma RCS-LTC cells, which fail to process the procollagen II N-propeptide. Stable transfection of RCS-LTC cells with bovine ADAMTS-2 or human ADAMTS-3 partially rescued the processing defect, suggesting that ADAMTS-3 has procollagen II N-propeptidase activity. Human skin and skin fibroblasts showed 30-fold higher mRNA levels of ADAMTS-2 than ADAMTS-3, whereas ADAMTS-3 mRNA was 5-fold higher than ADAMTS-2 mRNA in human cartilage. We propose that both ADAMTS-2 and ADAMTS-3 process procollagen II, but ADAMTS-3 is physiologically more relevant, given its preferred expression in cartilage. The findings provide an explanation for the sparing of cartilage in dermatosparaxis and, perhaps, for the relative sparing of some procollagen I-containing tissues.

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