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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Jul 23;93(15):7711-6.

Bioactivation of Müllerian inhibiting substance during gonadal development by a kex2/subtilisin-like endoprotease.

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Department of Physiology, Program in Developmental Biology, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0444, USA.


During male gonadal development Müllerian duct regression is mediated by the actions of the hormone Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS), a member of the transforming growth factor beta superfamily. MIS is considered to be unique among members of this superfamily because bioactivation of MIS via proteolytic processing is hypothesized to occur at its target organ, the Müllerian duct. We find instead that the majority of MIS is processed and secreted from the embryonic testes as a complex in which the mature region remains noncovalently associated with the prodomain. In addition, we have identified two candidate endoproteases that are expressed in the testes and that may be capable of processing MIS in vivo. These kex2/subtilisin-like enzymes, PC5 and furin, are members of the proprotein convertase family that have been implicated in hormone bioactivation via proteolytic processing after dibasic amino acid cleavage recognition sites. Coexpression of PC5 and MIS in transfected mammalian cells results in efficient processing and bioactivation of MIS. Our results suggest that MIS is a natural substrate for PC5, thereby supporting a role for prohormone convertases in the activation of transforming growth factor beta-related hormones during development.

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