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Biochemistry. 2008 Jan 29;47(4):1176-85. doi: 10.1021/bi701976f. Epub 2008 Jan 3.

Protease activation of alpha2-macroglobulin modulates a chaperone-like action with broad specificity.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.


Alpha2-macroglobulin (alpha2M) is a major human blood glycoprotein best known for its ability to inhibit a broad spectrum of proteases by a unique trapping method. This action induces an "activated" conformation of alpha2M with an exposed binding site for the low-density lipoprotein receptor, facilitating clearance of alpha2M/protease complexes from the body. This report establishes that protease activation also modulates a potent chaperone-like action of alpha2M that has broad specificity for proteins partly unfolded as a result of heat or oxidative stress. Protease-mediated activation of alpha2M abolishes its chaperone-like activity. However, native alpha2M is able to form soluble complexes with stressed proteins and then subsequently become activated by interacting with a protease, providing a potential mechanism for the in vivo clearance of alpha2M/stressed protein/protease complexes. We propose that alpha2M is a newly discovered and unique member of a small group of abundant extracellular proteins with chaperone properties that patrol extracellular spaces for unfolded/misfolded proteins and facilitate their disposal.

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