Background: Reelin, intensively studied as an extracellular protein that regulates brain development, is also expressed in a variety of tissues and a circulating pool of reelin exists in adult mammals. Here we describe the methodological and biological foundation for carrying out and interpreting clinical studies of plasma reelin. Results: Reelin in human plasma was sensitive to proteolysis, freeze-thawing and heating during long-term storage, sample preparation and electrophoresis. Reelin in plasma was a dimer under denaturing conditions. Boiling of samples resulted in laddering, suggesting that each of the 8 repeats expressed in reelin contains a heat-labile covalent bond susceptible to breakage. Urinary-type and tissue-type plasminogen activator converted reelin to a discrete 310 kDa fragment co-migrating with the major immunoreactive reelin fragment seen in plasma and also detected in brain. (In contrast, plasmin produced a spectrum of smaller unstable reelin fragments.) We examined archival plasma of 10 pairs of age-matched male individuals differing in repeat length of a CGG repeat polymorphism of the 5′-untranslated region of the reelin gene (both all eles <11 repeats vs. one allele having > 11 repeats). Reelin 310 kDa band content was lower in subjects having the long repeats in all 10 pairs, by 25% on average (p <0.001). In contrast, no difference was noted for amyloid precursor protein. Conclusions: Our studies indicate the need for caution in measuring reelin in archival blood samples, and suggest that assays of plasma reelin should take into account three dimensions that might vary independently: a) the total amount of reelin protein; b) the relative amounts of reelin vs. its proteolytic processing products; and c) the aggregation state of the native protein. Reelin-plasminogen activator interactions may affect their roles in synaptic plasticity. Our results also suggest that the human CGG repeat polymorphism affects reelin gene expression, and may affect susceptibility to human disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology