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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2008;40(6-7):1111-25. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2008.01.030. Epub 2008 Feb 8.

The activation and physiological functions of the proprotein convertases.

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Laboratory of Biochemical Neuroendocrinology, Clinical Research Institute of Montreal, 110 Pine Avenue West, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1R7, Canada.


The mammalian secretory proprotein convertases are part of a family of nine serine proteinases of the subtilisin-type. Seven of them cleave after basic amino acids and are called PC1/3, PC2, furin, PC4, PC5/6, PACE4 and PC7. The two other convertases SKI-1/S1P and PCSK9 are implicated in cholesterol and/or fatty acid metabolism. The convertases PC5/6 and PACE4 are activated at the cell surface where they are tethered to heparan sulfate proteoglycans. This activation pathway is unique and differs from that of furin and PC7, which are activated in the trans-Golgi network and from PC1/3 and PC2 that are activated in dense core secretory granules. While some of the basic amino acid-specific convertases may display redundant cleavages of substrates, they uniquely process certain substrates in vivo. Indeed, the conditional knockout of the PC5/6 gene in the embryo proper in mice led to severe malformations, bone morphogenic defects and death at birth. This is likely due to the absence of processing of the growth differentiating factor 11 (Gdf11). Both complete and liver-specific knockout of Pcsk9 revealed that it is a major convertase that regulates the level of circulating low-density lipoproteins (LDL) via the degradation of the hepatic LDL-receptor. This apparently non-enzymatic mechanism implicates the enhanced degradation of the LDLR in endosomes/lysosomes. These data provide evidence that an inhibitor of PCSK9-LDLR interaction is a viable target for the development of a novel cholesterol lowering drug in conjunction with the classical statins.

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