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J Biol Chem. 1989 Mar 5;264(7):3822-6.

Cleavage of type VII collagen by interstitial collagenase and type IV collagenase (gelatinase) derived from human skin.

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Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


Type VII collagen is the major structural protein of anchoring fibrils, which are believed to be critical for epidermal-dermal adhesion in the basement membrane zone of the skin. To elucidate possible mechanisms for the turnover of this protein, we examined the capacities of two proteases, human skin collagenase, which degrades interstitial collagens, and a protease with gelatinolytic and type IV collagenase activities, to cleave type VII collagen. At temperatures below the denaturation temperature, pepsin cleaves type VII collagen into products of approximately 95 and approximately 75 kDa. Human skin collagenase cleaved type VII collagen into two stable fragments of approximately 83 and approximately 80 kDa, and the type IV collagenase (gelatinase) produced a broad band of approximately 80 kDa as determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Cleavage of type VII collagen was linear with time and enzyme concentration for both enzymes. Although the Km values were similar for both enzymes, the catalytic rate of cleavage by type IV collagenase is much faster than by interstitial collagenase, and shows a greater rate of increase with increasing temperature. Sequence analysis of the cleavage products from both enzymes showed typical collagenous sequences, indicating a relaxation in the helical part of the type VII collagen molecule at physiological temperature which makes it susceptible to gelatinolytic degradation. Interstitial collagenase from both normal skin cells and cells from patients with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, a severe hereditary blistering disease in which both an anchoring fibril defect and excessive production of collagenase can be observed, produced identical cleavage products from type VII collagen. These data suggest a pathophysiological link between increased enzyme levels and the observed decrease or absence of anchoring fibrils.

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