A major event in the keratinization of epidermis is the production of the histidine-rich protein filaggrin (26,000 mol wt) from its high molecular weight (greater than 350,000) phosphorylated precursor (profilaggrin). We have identified two nonphosphorylated intermediates (60,000 and 90,000 mol wt) in NaSCN extracts of epidermis from C57/Bl6 mice by in vivo pulse-chase studies. Results of peptide mapping using a two-dimensional technique suggest that these intermediates consist of either two or three copies of filaggrin domains. Each of the intermediates has been purified. The ratios of amino acids in the purified components are unusual and essentially identical. The data are discussed in terms of a precursor containing tandem repeats of similar domains. In vivo pulse-chase experiments demonstrate that the processing of the high molecular weight phosphorylated precursor involves dephosphorylation and proteolytic steps through three-domain and two-domain intermediates to filaggrin. These processing steps appear to occur as the cell goes through the transition cell stage to form a cornified cell.

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