Legumain was recently discovered as a lysosomal endopeptidase in mammals [Chen, Dando, Rawlings, Brown, Young, Stevens, Hewitt, Watts and Barrett (1997) J. Biol. Chem. 272, 8090-8098], having been known previously only from plants and invertebrates. It has been shown to play a key role in processing of the C fragment of tetanus toxin for presentation by the MHC class-II system [Manoury, Hewitt, Morrice, Dando, Barrett and Watts (1998) Nature (London) 396, 695-699]. We examine here the specificity of the enzyme from pig kidney by use of protein, oligopeptide and synthetic arylamide substrates, all determinations being made at pH 5.8. In proteins, only about one in ten of the asparaginyl bonds were hydrolysed, and these were mostly predicted to be located at turns on the protein surface. Bonds that were not cleaved in tetanus toxin were cleaved when presented in oligopeptides, sometimes faster than an equivalent oligopeptide based on a bond that was cleaved in the protein. Legumain cleaved the bait region of rat α1-macroglobulin and was ‘trapped’ by the macroglobulin, as most other endopeptidases are, but did not interact with human α2-macroglobulin, which contains no asparagine residue in its bait region. Glycosylation of asparagine totally prevented hydrolysis by legumain. Specificity for arylamide substrates was evaluated with reference to benzyloxycarbonyl-Ala-Ala-Asn-aminomethylcoumarin, and the preference for the P3-position amino acid was Ala > Tyr(tertiary butyl) > Val > Pro > Phe = Tyr > Leu = Gly. There was no hydrolysis of substrate analogues containing mono- or di-N-methylasparagines, L-2-amino-3-ureidopropionic acid or citrulline in the P1 position. We conclude that mammalian legumain appears to be totally restricted to the hydrolysis of asparaginyl bonds in substrates of all kinds. There seem to be no strong preferences for particular amino acids in other subsites, and yet there are still unidentified factors that prevent hydrolysis of many asparaginyl bonds in proteins.
- cysteine endopeptidase
- limited proteolysis
- lysosomal endopeptidase
- protein processing
- The Biochemical Society, London © 1999