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Keywords:

  • thyroid;
  • epithelium;
  • proteolysis;
  • calpain;
  • calpastatin;
  • junctions

Proteolysis at neutral pH in the soluble fraction of cultured pig thyroid epithelial cells was examined using a synthetic calpain substrate, succinyl-Leu-Tyr-7-amino-4-methylcoumarin. The Ca2+-independent proteolytic activity was largely inhibited by substances known to affect cysteine- and metalloproteases, whereas no or little effects were obtained with inhibitors affecting serine- and aspartic proteases. Addition of Ca2+did not significantly alter the rate of substrate degradation. Biochemical separation via hydrophobic interaction chomatography and Western blotting demonstrated the presence of both m-calpain (40% of total calpain) and μ-calpain (60%) in confluent thyrocytes. Determination of calpastatin activity indicated a 30 times higher level of the inhibitor as compared to total calpain activity. Western blotting showed the presence of a 110kD calpastatin form with additional low mol wt forms possibly representing fragmentation products. In immunofluorescent stainings, m-calpain had a diffuse cytoplasmic distribution whereas μ-calpain was located both in the cytoplasm and at the cell—cell contacts. Calpastatin immunoreactivity was mainly granular and located close to the nucleus, although a fibrillar distribution was also observed. The results show the presence of all components of the calpain/calpastatin system and indicate a strict control of calpain activity in cultured thyrocytes. The different subcellular distributions of calpains and calpastatin suggests that they are compartmentalized and require mobilization to interact.