The role of calcium ions in the stability and instability of a thermolysin-like protease

Protein Science : a Publication of the Protein Society
Vincent G H EijsinkGert Vriend

Abstract

Thermolysin and other secreted broad-specificity proteases, such as subtilisin or alpha-lytic protease, are produced as pre-pro-proteins that stay at least partially unfolded while in the cytosol. After secretion, the pro-proteases fold to their active conformations in a process that includes the autolytic removal of the pro-peptide. We review the life cycle of the thermolysin-like protease from Bacillus stearothermophilus in light of the calcium dependent stability and instability of the N-terminal domain. The protease binds calcium ions in the regions that are involved in the autolytic maturation process. It is generally assumed that the calcium ions contribute to the extreme stability of the protease, but experimental evidence for TLP-ste indicates that at least one of the calcium ions plays a regulatory role. We hypothesize that this calcium ion plays an important role as a switch that modulates the protease between stable and unstable states as appropriate to the biological need.

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