Rapid downregulation of L-selectin expression occurs in response to leukocyte activation, and it has been speculated to be an integral process in the adhesion cascade leading to neutrophil recruitment to sites of inflammation. It has previously been proposed that L-selectin is proteolytically cleaved from the cell surface; however, the nature of the cleavage site has been unknown. We have produced polyclonal antisera against the extracellular domain and against the cytoplasmic domain of L-selectin. Both antisera immunoprecipitate the intact form of L-selectin from metabolically labeled phytohemagglutinin-stimulated lymphoblasts and peripheral blood neutrophils. In addition, the anti-cytoplasmic domain serum, but not the antiectodomain serum, immunoprecipitate a 6-kD species from PMA activated lymphoblasts and formylmethionylleucylphenylalanine-activated neutrophils. Conversely, the antiectodomain serum but not the anti-cytoplasmic domain serum immunoprecipitate a 68-kD soluble form of L-selectin from the supernatant of PMA-activated lymphoblasts. The appearance of the 6-kD species on activated cells correlated with the disappearance of the intact form of L-selectin and the appearance of the soluble form of L-selectin. A third polyclonal serum generated against the membrane proximal region of the ectodomain also reacted with the 6-kD species, indicating that this is a transmembrane peptide of L-selectin. That the 6-kD species is derived from L-selectin was confirmed by immunoprecipitation of the 6-kD species from L-selectin transfectants but not from mock transfectants. Radiochemical sequence analysis defined a cleavage site between Lys321 and Ser322, which would predict a transmembrane fragment consistent in size with the observed 6-kD fragment. A Ser-Phe-Ser motif adjacent to the cleavage site is conserved between human, mouse, and rat L-selectin, and a related motif is found proximal to transmembrane domains of other downregulated proteins, such as ACE, CD16-II, and TNF-RII, suggesting the possibility of a common recognition motif.

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