We have cloned a bovine cDNA encoding the trans-Golgi network (TGN) protease furin and expressed it via recombinant vaccinia viruses to investigate intracellular maturation. Pulse-chase labeling reveals that the 104-kD pro-furin bearing high mannose N-glycans is rapidly processed into the 98-kD protease whose N-glycans remain sensitive to endoglycosidase H for a certain period of time. Furthermore, in the presence of brefeldin A, pro-furin cleavage occurs. From these data we conclude that the ER is the compartment of propeptide removal. Studies employing the ionophore A23187 and DTT show that autocatalysis is Ca2+ dependent and that it does not occur under reducing conditions. Pro-furin produced under these conditions never gains endo H resistance indicating that it is retained in the ER. Coexpression of furin with the fowl plague virus hemagglutinin in the presence of brefeldin A and monensin reveals that furin has to enter the Golgi region to gain substrate cleaving activity. N-glycans of furin are sialylated proving its transit through the trans-Golgi network. A truncated form of furin is found in supernatants of cells. Truncation is inhibited in the absence of Ca2+ ions and in the presence of acidotropic agents indicating that it takes place in an acidic compartment of cells. Comparative analysis with furin expressed from cDNA reveals that the truncated form prevails in preparations of biologically active, endogenous furin obtained from MDBK cells. This observation supports the concept that secretion of truncated furin is a physiological event that may have important implications for the processing of extracellular substrates.

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