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FEBS Lett. 1997 Mar 17;405(1):68-72.

Comparative functional role of PC7 and furin in the processing of the HIV envelope glycoprotein gp160.

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J.A. DeSève Laboratory of Biochemical Neuroendocrinology, University of Montreal, QC, Canada.


The intracellular proteolytic processing of HIV envelope glycoprotein gp160 into gp120/gp41 is an essential step for virus infectivity. Several convertases, belonging to the pro-protein convertase family, have been proposed as candidate gp160 processing enzymes. Here we demonstrate using RT-PCR that resting human T4 lymphocytes weakly express PC7, furin, and PC5 mRNA whereas lymphocytes activated under conditions favoring HIV replication express 5-10-fold higher levels of furin and PC7. In this report, we examined the capability of the newly cloned convertase PC7 to cleave gp160 into gp120/gp41 and compared it to furin. This was carried out in a cell-based assay whereby both gp160 and the cognate convertase were co-expressed in the constitutively secreting BSC40 cells and in the regulated AtT20 cells, as well as using two in vitro assays which examined the cleavage of gp160 or of a synthetic peptide spanning the cleavage site. The data demonstrate that PC7 can cleave specifically and in a cell-type specific manner gp160 into gp120gp41, suggesting that both furin and PC7 are so far the major PC-like candidate gp160 convertase in T4 lymphocytes.

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