Differential processing of α- and β-defensin precursors by matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP-7)

Carole L. Wilson, Amy P. Schmidt, Emma Pirilä, Erika V. Valore, Nicola Ferri, Timo Sorsa, Tomas Ganz, William C. Parks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Proteolytic processing of defensins is a critical mode of posttranslational regulation of peptide activity. Because mouse α-defensin precursors are cleaved and activated by matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP-7), we determined if additional defensin molecules, namely human neutrophil defensin pro-HNP-1 and β-defensins, are targets for MMP-7. We found that MMP-7 cleaves within the pro-domain of the HNP-1 precursor, a reaction that does not generate the mature peptide but produces a 59-amino acid intermediate. This intermediate, which retains the carboxylterminal end of the pro-domain, had antimicrobial activity, indicating that the residues important for masking defensin activity reside in the amino terminus of this domain. Mature HNP-1 was resistant to processing by MMP-7 unless the peptide was reduced and alkylated, demonstrating that only the pro-domain of α-defensins is normally accessible for cleavage by this enzyme. From the 47-residue HBD-1 precursor, MMP-7 catalyzed removal of 6 amino acids from the amino terminus. Neither a 39-residue intermediate form of HBD-1 nor the mature 36-residue form of HBD-1 was cleaved by MMP-7. In addition, both pro-HBD-2, with its shorter amino-terminal extension, and pro-HBD-3 were resistant to MMP-7. However, human and mouse β-defensin precursors that lack disulfide bonding contain a cryptic MMP-7-sensitive site within the mature peptide moiety. These findings support and extend accumulating evidence that the native three-dimensional structure of both α- and β-defensins protects the mature peptides against proteolytic processing by MMP-7. We also conclude that sites for MMP-7 cleavage are more common at the amino termini of α-defensin rather than β-defensin precursors, and that catalysis at these sites in α-defensin pro-domains results in acquisition of defensin activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8301-8311
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Mar 27 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Differential processing of α- and β-defensin precursors by matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP-7)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this