Characterization of Proprotein Convertases and Their Involvement in Virus Propagation

  • Wolfgang GartenEmail author


Proprotein convertases (PCs), also known as eukaryotic subtilases, are a group of serine proteases comprising furin (PACE), PC1 (PC3), PC2, PC4, PACE4, PC5 (PC6), and PC7 (LPC, PC8) that generate bioactive proteins and peptides, such as hormones, receptors, and growth factors by cleaving precursor proteins at multibasic motifs. Two other family members, SKI-1/S1P and PCSK9, cleave regulator proteins involved in cholesterol and fatty acid homeostasis at nonbasic peptide bonds. Furin is ubiquitous in eukaryotic tissues and cells. PACE4, PC5, and PC7 are also widespread, whereas the expression of the other PCs is more restricted. PCs are synthesized as multi-segmented zymogens which are autocatalytically activated. The prodomains have regulatory and inhibitory functions. The catalytic domains are the most conserved domains among the PCs. The architecture of the catalytic active furin domain is known in different binding states. The C-terminal parts of the PCs differ in length and structure and contain encoded peptide signatures guiding the PCs to the subcellular destinations on the secretory pathways: SKI-1/S1P to the cis-Golgi, furin, PC5B, and PC7 to the TGN region but also to the plasma membrane. PACE4, PC5A, and PCSK9 are attached at the cell surface. Truncated, soluble furin and SKI-1/S1P, as well as PC1 and PC2, are released into the extracellular matrix. Many enveloped viruses are activated by furin and furin-like PCs and arenaviruses and a few bunyaviruses by SKI-1/S1P. The PCs cleave the viral fusion glycoprotein to trigger fusion of viral envelopes with cellular membranes to deliver the viral genome into host cells. Cleavage by PCs, occasionally in concert with other endoproteases, enables conformational changes in the viral membrane proteins needed for correct oligomerization of glycoprotein spikes and their effective incorporation into virions. Mutational alterations of PC cleavage sites can reduce the fusion potential of viral surface proteins and thus facilitate the development of secure live attenuated vaccines. Alternatively, agents preventing cleavage of viral surface (glyco)proteins block fusion capacity and multicyclic virus replications. PC inhibitors are suggested as promising antiviral drugs for quite a number of viruses causing severe infections.


Furin PC1/3 PC2 PACE4 PC5/6 PC7/8 SKI-1/S1P Subcellular localization and trafficking PCs structure and biosynthesis Fusion proteins Biologically active peptides Glycoprotein trimerization and incorporation Protease activation mutants 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of VirologyPhilipps-University MarburgMarburgGermany

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