Diverse Substrate Recognition Mechanisms for Rhomboids: Thrombomodulin Is Cleaved by Mammalian Rhomboids

Olli Lohi, Sinisa Urban, Matthew Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


The rhomboids are a recently discovered family of intramembrane proteases that are conserved across evolution. Drosophila was the first organism in which they were characterized, where at least Rhomboids 1-3 activate EGF receptor signaling by releasing the active forms of EGF-like growth factors [1, 2]. Subsequent work has begun to shed light on the role of these proteases in bacteria and yeast [3-8], but nothing is known about the function of rhomboids in vertebrates beyond evidence that the subclass of mitochondrial rhomboids is conserved [4]. Here, we report that the anticoagulant cell-surface protein thrombomodulin [9] is the first mammalian protein to be a rhomboid substrate in a cell culture assay. The thrombomodulin transmembrane domain (TMD) is cleaved only by vertebrate RHBDL2-like rhomboids. Thrombomodulin TMD cleavage is directed not by sequences within the TMD, as is the case with Spitz but by its cytoplasmic domain, which, at least in some contexts, is necessary and sufficient to determine cleavage by RHBDL2. These data suggest that thrombomodulin could be a physiological substrate for rhomboid. Moreover, the discovery of a second mode of substrate recognition by rhomboids implies mechanistic diversity in this family of intramembrane proteases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-241
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 3 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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