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Keywords:

  • neuropeptides;
  • neurotransmission;
  • peptide metabolism;
  • prolyl endopeptidase;
  • prolyl oligopeptidase

Prolyl oligopeptidase (POP) is a serine protease that cleaves small peptides at the carboxyl side of an internal proline residue. Substance P, arginine–vasopressin, thyroliberin and gonadoliberin are proposed physiological substrates of this protease. POP has been implicated in a variety of brain processes, including learning, memory, and mood regulation, as well as in pathologies such as neurodegeneration, hypertension, and psychiatric disorders. Although POP has been considered to be a soluble cytoplasmic peptidase, significant levels of activity have been detected in membranes and in extracellular fluids such as serum, cerebrospinal fluid, seminal fluid, and urine, suggesting the existence of noncytoplasmic forms. Furthermore, a closely associated membrane prolyl endopeptidase (PE) activity has been previously detected in synaptosomes and shown to be different from the cytoplasmic POP activity. Here we isolated, purified and characterized this membrane-bound PE, herein referred to as mPOP. Although, when attached to membranes, mPOP presents certain features that distinguish it from the classical POP, our results indicate that this protein has the same amino acid sequence as POP except for the possible addition of a hydrophobic membrane anchor. The kinetic properties of detergent-soluble mPOP are fully comparable to those of POP; however, when attached to the membranes in its natural conformation, mPOP is significantly less active and, moreover, it migrates anomalously in SDS/PAGE. Our results are the first to show that membrane-bound and cytoplasmic POP are encoded by variants of the same gene.