The developmental expression in rat of proteases furin, PC1, PC2, and carboxypeptidase E: Implications for early maturation of proteolytic processing capacity

M. Zheng, R. D. Streck, R. E.M. Scott, N. G. Seidah, J. E. Pintar

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128 Scopus citations


The genes encoding mammalian subtilisin-like endoproteases furin, PC1, and PC2 have been isolated and are implicated in endoproteolytic cleavage of precursor molecules, which is a key step in posttranslational maturation of proproteins and neuropeptide precursors. Following endoproteolytic cleavage, the carboxyl-terminal basic amino acid residues are removed by carboxypeptidase E (CPE). We have examined the expression of these genes during rat development by in situ hybridization and compared their expression patterns to those of potential substrates. In the primitive streak stage of embryogenesis (e7) furin is expressed in both endoderm and mesoderm. This overall expression pattern is maintained until e10, when a distinctly higher level of furin expression is observed in the heart and liver primordia. In mid- and late gestational stages furin is broadly expressed in the peripheral tissues, and, therefore, may contribute to the proteolytic processing of numerous fetal proproteins, such as the precursors for natriuretic factors in heart and IGF-II throughout the embryo. In contrast, the expressions of PC1 and PC2 are initiated much later (e13) and are mainly confined to the developing nervous system, but with distinct spatial distributions. At midgestational ages, PC1 mRNA is mainly expressed in the hypothalamus and peripheral ganglia, while PC2 is expressed not only in these tissues but also in the thalamus, midbrain, pons, medulla oblongata, cortical plate, and spinal cord. Besides neuropeptide precursor processing in the nervous system, PC1 and PC2 may also be involved in the proteolytic processing in additional regions as evidenced by the finding that both PC1 and PC2 mRNAs are expressed in the embryonic pituitary and pancreas. CPE mRNA is expressed in both neural tissues and some non-neural tissues. In the developing nervous system, the expression of CPE encompasses all the regions where PC1 and PC2 are expressed and in fact includes most brain regions as neurogenesis proceeds. CPE mRNA is also expressed in some peripheral tissues, such as the embryonic heart and cartilage primordia, and in some cases its expression overlaps with furin expression. Thus, CPE may functionally collaborate during development with the subtilisin family of endoproteases in the completion of proteolytic processing of neuropeptide precursors in the nervous system and proproteins in the peripheral tissues. In the pituitary, the endoproteolytic processing of polyfunctional precursor proopiomelanocortin (POMC) occurs in a developmentally regulated manner. We have shown that while PC2 mRNA is predominately expressed in the intermediate lobe in the adult, we observed an increased expression of PC2 mRNA in developing rat anterior lobe, peaking at early postnatal stages. The expressions of PC1 and PC2 in early postnatal pituitary overlap with POMC expression and the levels of PC1 and PC2 expression in pituitary parallel changes in POMC endoproteolytic processing pattern, suggesting regulation of endoprotease expression may account for differential processing of proproteins in development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4656-4673
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • PC1
  • PC2
  • carboxypeptidase E
  • furin
  • in situ hybridization
  • neuropeptide processing
  • ontogeny
  • prohormone processing

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