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Arch Biochem Biophys. 1993 Jul;304(1):110-6.

Isolation, characterization, and proteolysis of human prosaposin, the precursor of saposins (sphingolipid activator proteins).

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  • 1Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0634.


Prosaposin contains separate domains in tandem for four saposins, A, B, C, and D. These mature saposins are produced by limited proteolysis of prosaposin. They are involved in lysosomal hydrolysis of GM1 ganglioside, gluco- and galactocerebrosides, sulfatides, and sphingomyelin and other sphingolipids. Prosaposin also exists as a secretory protein in body fluids. In this investigation prosaposin was expressed in Spodoptera frugiperda cells (Sf9) by infection with baculovirus containing a full length cDNA coding for human prosaposin. Prosaposin was isolated and purified from spent culture medium of the recombinant Sf9 cell cultures as well as from human seminal plasma and milk. From sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, the molecular weight of both native human prosaposins is estimated to be 66 kDa and that of recombinant prosaposin as 58 kDa. Deglycosylation of native and recombinant prosaposins yielded a protein with a molecular weight of 54 kDa and isoelectric point of 5.4. The N-terminal sequence of both native and recombinant prosaposins was identical (G-P-V-L-L-G-L-K). Like mature saposins, all prosaposins possessed stimulative activity for cerebroside beta-glucosidase (saposins A and C activity), GM1 ganglioside beta-galactosidase (saposin B activity), and sphingomyelinase (saposin D activity) but not sulfatide sulfatase (saposin B activity). Partially proteolyzed products derived from prosaposins were isolated and identified. From seminal plasma, two proteins of 48 and 29 kDa and from Sf9 culture media, two proteins of 39 and 26 kDa were characterized. N-terminal amino acid sequencing and Western blot analysis of each protein indicated that the 39-and 48-kDa proteins are cleavage products containing domains for saposins B, C, and D (trisaposins), and the 26- and 29-kDa proteins are cleavage products containing domains for saposins C and D (disaposin). These observations suggest that proteolysis of prosaposin in these tissues occurs sequentially from the N-terminal region. Proteins involved in the initial proteolysis of prosaposin were partially characterized in human testis.

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