Furin Is the Primary in Vivo Convertase of Angiopoietin-like 3 and Endothelial Lipase in Hepatocytes
The proprotein convertases (PCs) furin, PC5/6, and PACE4 exhibit unique and/or complementary functions. Their knockout (KO) in mice resulted in strong and specific phenotypes demonstrating that, in vivo, these PCs are unique and essential during development. However, they also exhibit redundant functions. Liver angiopoietin-like 3 (ANGPTL3) inhibits lipolysis by binding to lipoprotein lipases. It is found in the plasma as full length and truncated forms. The latter is more active and generated by cleavage at a furin-like site. Endothelial lipase (EL) binds heparin sulfate proteoglycans on cell surfaces and catalyzes the hydrolysis of HDL phospholipids. EL activity is regulated by two endogenous inhibitors, ANGPTL3 and ANGPTL4, and by PCs that inactivate EL through cleavage releasing the N-terminal catalytic and C-terminal lipid-binding domains. Herein, because furin and PC5/6 complete KOs are lethal, we used mice lacking furin or PC5/6 specifically in hepatocytes (hKO) or mice completely lacking PACE4. In primary hepatocytes, ANGPTL3 was processed into a shorter form of ANGPTL3 intracellularly by furin only, and extracellularly mainly by PACE4. In vivo, the absence of furin in hepatocytes reduced by similar to 50% the circulating levels of cleaved ANGPTL3, while the lack of PACE4 had only a minor effect. Analysis of the EL processing in primary hepatocytes and in vivo revealed that it is mostly cleaved by furin. However, the lack of furin or PC5/6 in hepatocytes and complete PACE4 KO did not appreciably modify plasma HDL levels or EL activity. Thus, inhibition of furin in liver would not be expected to modify the plasma lipid profiles.