A series of site-specific insertion and deletion mutants was prepared in the pro domain of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF beta 1) encoded by simian TGF beta 1 cDNA. These mutants were transiently expressed in COS-1 cells and the ability of each to be properly processed, folded correctly, and secreted was determined by immunoblot analysis of cells and culture supernatants. Insertions in regions corresponding to amino acid residues 50, 154, and 170 blocked secretion; culture supernatants from COS-1 cells showed no immunologically reactive proteins, whereas intact cells contained high levels of the mutant polypeptides. Insertions in the middle portion of the pro domain at residues 81, 85, and 144 affected disulfide maturation of the mature TGF beta 1. An insertion at residue 110, on the other hand, appeared to destabilize the mature TGF beta 1 polypeptide, resulting in degraded growth factor. Relatively small (10 amino acids) to large (125 amino acids) deletion mutations in the pro domain of TGF beta 1, when expressed as the full-length pre-pro-TGF beta 1, appeared to block secretion. By contrast, if the pro domain (designated beta 1-latency-associated peptide [beta 1-LAP]) was expressed independently, deletion mutants in the region 40-110 were readily secreted by the COS-1 cells, whereas deletions in residues 110-210 either destabilized the structure of the protein or blocked its intracellular transport. Cross-linking assays employing radioiodinated TGF beta 1 and biological assays indicate that residues 50-85 of beta 1-LAP are required for association with mature TGF beta 1.
Medium conditioned by Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells transfected with the simian pre-pro-TGF beta 1 cDNA contains high levels of latent TGF beta 1. The amino-terminal region of the TGF beta 1 precursor is secreted and can be detected in the conditioned medium by immunoblotting using peptide antibodies specific for amino-terminal peptides. Chemical cross-linking of CHO-conditioned medium using bis-(sulfosuccinimidyl)-suberate (BS3) followed by immunoblot analyses indicates that latent recombinant TGF beta 1 contains both the cleaved amino-terminal glycopeptide and mature TGF beta 1 polypeptide in a noncovalent association and that this association confers latency. The data presented here do not support the involvement of a unique TGF beta binding protein(s) in latent recombinant TGF beta 1. Plasmin treatment of CHO-conditioned medium resulted in the appearance of TGF beta competing activity. In addition, immunoblot analysis of plasmin-treated CHO-conditioned medium indicates that the amino-terminal glycopeptide is partially degraded and that mature TGF beta 1 is released. Thus, activation of latent TGF beta 1 may occur by proteolytic nicking within the amino-terminal glycopeptide thereby causing a disruption of tertiary structure and noncovalent bonds, which results in the release of active, mature TGF beta 1. Acid activation of latent TGF beta, in comparison, appears to be due to dissociation of the amino-terminal glycopeptide from the mature polypeptide.