The insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-dependent IGF binding protein-4 protease secreted by human fibroblasts is pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A.
Proteolytic cleavage of the six known insulin-like growth factor binding proteins (IGFBPs) is a powerful means of rapid structure and function modification of these important growth-regulatory proteins. Intact IGFBP-4 is a potent inhibitor of IGF action in vitro, and cleavage of IGFBP-4 has been shown to abolish its ability to inhibit IGF stimulatory effects in a variety of systems, suggesting that IGFBP-4 proteolysis acts as a positive regulator of IGF bioavailability. Here we report the isolation of an IGF-dependent IGFBP-4-specific protease from human fibroblast-conditioned media and its identification by mass spectrometry microsequencing as pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A), a protein of unknown function found in high concentrations in the maternal circulation during pregnancy. Antibodies raised against PAPP-A both inhibited and immunodepleted IGFBP-4 protease activity in human fibroblast-conditioned media. Moreover, PAPP-A purified from pregnancy sera had IGF-dependent IGFBP-4 protease activity. PAPP-A mRNA was expressed by the human fibroblasts and osteoblasts, and PAPP-A protein was secreted into the culture medium. In conclusion, we have identified an IGF-dependent IGFBP protease and at the same time assigned a function to PAPP-A. This represents an unanticipated union of two areas of research that were not linked in any way before this report.