Activation of latent protease function of pro-hK2, but not pro-PSA, involves autoprocessing

Samuel R. Denmeade, Janita Lövgren, Saeed R. Khan, Hans Lilja, John T. Isaacs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Human glandular kallikrein 2 (hK2) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) are members of an extensive kallikrein family of proteases. Both proteases are secreted as zymogens or proenzymes containing a seven amino acid propeptide that must be proteolytically removed for enzymatic activation. The physiological proteases that activate pro-hK2 and pro-PSA are not known. METHODS. The pro-hK2 peptide sequence is Val-Pro-Leu-Ile-Gln-Ser-Arg (VPLIQSR). For PSA, the amino acid sequence of the propeptide is Ala-Pro-Leu-Ile-Leu-Ser-Arg (APLILSR). Fluorescent substrates were made by coupling these peptide sequences to 7-amino-4-methylcoumarin (AMC). The hydrolysis of the VPLIQSR-AMC and APLILSR-AMC substrates by hK2, PSA, and a panel of purified proteases was determined. RESULTS. HK2 readily cleaved the pro-hK2 peptide substrate VPLIQSR-AMC with a rate of hydrolysis that was ∼ 8-fold higher than an equimolar amount of purified trypsin. HK2 also had the highest hydrolysis rate from among a group of other trypsin-like proteases. In contrast, neither hK2 nor PSA was able to appreciably cleave the pro-PSA substrate APLILSR-AMC. The pro-PSA substrate was most readily hydrolyzed by urokinase and trypsin. CONCLUSIONS. HK2 can hydrolyze the pro-hK2 substrate suggesting that maturation of pro-hK2 to enzymatically active hK2 involves autoprocessing. As expected, PSA, a chymotrypsin-like protease, was unable to hydrolyze either of the propeptide substrates. Therefore, it is unlikely that PSA can auto-process its own enzymatic function. HK2 has trypsin-like specificity but was unable to hydrolyze the pro-PSA substrate. These results raise the possibility that an additional processing protease may be required to fully process PSA to an enzymatically active form.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-126
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2001


  • Auto-processing
  • Human glandular kallikrein 2 (hK2)
  • Propeptide
  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Urology


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