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J Virol. 1994 Feb;68(2):1213-8.

Sequence specificity of furin, a proprotein-processing endoprotease, for the hemagglutinin of a virulent avian influenza virus.

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Department of Virology and Molecular Biology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38101.


The virulence of avian influenza viruses correlates with the sensitivity of their hemagglutinin (HA) to cellular proteases. Furin, a proprotein-processing subtilisin-related endoprotease, is a leading candidate for the enzyme that cleaves the HA of virulent avian viruses. We therefore compared the specificity of furin with those of proteases in a variety of cultured cells and in a rat Golgi fraction, using the HA cleavage mutants of a virulent avian influenza virus, A/Turkey/Ireland/1378/85 (H5N8). The results indicated similar sequence specificities among the endoproteases when purified furin was used. In experiments with the vaccinia virus expression system, overexpressed furin cleaved mutant HAs that were not recognized by the endogenous proteases, resulting in an apparent broader specificity of furin. These findings authenticate the proposed role of furin as an HA-activating protease in vivo and caution against the use of expression vectors to study protease sequence specificity.

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