Salt concentration-dependency of vitellogenin processing by cathepsin D in Xenopus laevis
The mechanism by which cathepsin D produces only limited proteolysis of vitellogenins (VTG) was studied in Xenopus oocytes. We first examined mature oocytes for the existence of cathepsin D; immunoblot and biochemical analyses revealed the existence of a 43kDa enzyme protein and its proteolytic activity in oocytes during and after the vitellogenesis. By determining the proteolytic activity of the fractions after subcellular fractionation of oocytes, we confirmed that cathepsin D is preserved in the yolk plasma of mature yolk platelets. The reaction of VTG with cathepsin D was examined in vitro at pH 5.6 as a function of NaCl concentrations. Lipovitellins generated from the VTG were preserved for several days at 37°C in the presence of the enzyme if the NaCl concentration was 0.15 mol/L or lower. The amount of lipovitellins decreased with increased molarity of the salt and at 0.5 mol/L NaCl they were rapidly degraded. The precipitates, growing in the reaction tube with 0.15 mol/L NaCl, included all constituents of yolk proteins and were ultrastructurally shown to have crystal structures perforated by empty cavities. No precipitates appeared at 0.5 mol/L NaCl. The results indicate that the limitation on proteolysis of the VTG by cathepsin D is due to the insolubility of yolk proteins at physiological salt concentrations, which explains why yolk can be stored stably in the presence of acid hydrolases over a long period.
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