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The lysosomal protease Cathepsin D (CD) plays a role in neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and embryo-fetus abnormalities. It is therefore of interest to know how this protein is synthesized in animal species used for modeling human diseases. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is emerging as a valuable 'in vivo' vertebrate model for several human diseases. We have characterized the biogenetic pathways of zebrafish and human CD transgenically expressed in both human SH-SY5Y cells and zebrafish PAC2 cells. Differently from human CD, zebrafish CD was synthesized as a mono-glycosylated precursor (pro-CD) that was eventually processed into a single-chain mature polypeptide. In PAC2 cells, ammonium chloride and chloroquine impaired the N-glycosylation, and greatly stimulated the secretion, of pro-CD; still, a portion of un-glycosylated pro-CD reached the lysosomes and was processed to mature CD. The treatment with tunicamycin, which abrogates N-glycosylation, resulted in a similar effect. Zebrafish pro-CD was correctly processed when expressed in human cells, and its glycosylation, transport and maturation were not impaired by ammonium chloride. On the contrary, the transport and processing of human pro-CD expressed in zebrafish cells were profoundly altered: while the intermediate single-chain was not detectable, a small amount of double-chain mature CD still formed. This fact indicates that the enzyme machinery for single- to double-chain processing of mammal CD is present in zebrafish. Our data highlight the respective impact of the information imparted by the primary sequence and of the cellular transport and processing machineries in the biogenesis of lysosomal CD.

Original publication




Journal article


The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology

Publication Date





273 - 282


Department of Health Sciences, Università del Piemonte Orientale Amedeo Avogadro, Via Solaroli 17, 28100, Novara, Italy.


Cell Line, Lysosomes, Animals, Zebrafish, Humans, Enzyme Precursors, Cathepsin D, Zebrafish Proteins, Protein Processing, Post-Translational, Amino Acid Sequence, Protein Structure, Secondary, Protein Structure, Tertiary, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, Protein Transport, Glycosylation, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data