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J Biol Chem. 2008 May 30;283(22):15031-6. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M801548200. Epub 2008 Apr 2.

The folding of human active and inactive extracellular superoxide dismutases is an intracellular event.

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Center for Insoluble Protein Structures and Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center, Departments of Molecular Biology and Chemistry, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark.


Human extracellular superoxide dismutase (EC-SOD) is a tetrameric glycoprotein responsible for the removal of superoxide generated in the extracellular space. Two different folding variants of EC-SOD exist based on the disulfide bridge connectivity, resulting in enzymatically active (aEC-SOD) and inactive (iEC-SOD) subunits. As a consequence of this, the assembly of the EC-SOD tetramers produces molecules with variable activity and may represent a way to regulate the antioxidant level in the extracellular space. To determine whether the formation of these two folding variants is an intra- or extracellular event, we analyzed the biosynthesis in human embryonic kidney 293 cells expressing wild-type EC-SOD. These analyses revealed that both folding variants were present in the intra- and extracellular spaces, suggesting that the formation is an intracellular event. To further analyze the biosynthesis, we constructed mutants with the capacity to generate only aEC-SOD (C195S) or iEC-SOD (C45S). The expression of these suggested that the cellular biosynthetic machinery supported the secretion of aEC-SOD but not iEC-SOD. The coexpression of these two mutants did not affect the expression pattern. This study shows that generation of the EC-SOD folding variants is an intracellular event that depends on a free cysteine residue not involved in disulfide bonding.

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