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Proprotein convertase cleavage liberates a fibrillogenic fragment of a resident glycoprotein to initiate melanosome biogenesis.

Berson J.F., Theos A.C., Harper D.C., Tenza D., Raposo G., Marks M.S.

Lysosome-related organelles are cell type-specific intracellular compartments with distinct morphologies and functions. The molecular mechanisms governing the formation of their unique structural features are not known. Melanosomes and their precursors are lysosome-related organelles that are characterized morphologically by intralumenal fibrous striations upon which melanins are polymerized. The integral membrane protein Pmel17 is a component of the fibrils and can nucleate their formation in the absence of other pigment cell-specific proteins. Here, we show that formation of intralumenal fibrils requires cleavage of Pmel17 by a furin-like proprotein convertase (PC). As in the generation of amyloid, proper cleavage of Pmel17 liberates a lumenal domain fragment that becomes incorporated into the fibrils; longer Pmel17 fragments generated in the absence of PC activity are unable to form organized fibrils. Our results demonstrate that PC-dependent cleavage regulates melanosome biogenesis by controlling the fibrillogenic activity of a resident protein. Like the pathologic process of amyloidogenesis, the formation of other tissue-specific organelle structures may be similarly dependent on proteolytic activation of physiological fibrillogenic substrates.

J. Cell Biol. 161:521-533(2003) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]