Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) is a large multidomain metalloprotease involved in cleavage of IGF binding protein (IGFBP)-4 and -5 thereby causing release of bioactive IGF. Individual domains of PAPP-A have been characterized in vitro, including the metzincin proteolytic domain important for IGFBP proteolytic activity, short consensus repeats critical for cell surface association, and Lin-12/Notch repeat module demonstrated to determine IGFBP substrate specificity. To test the hypothesis that specific cleavage of IGFBP-4 by PAPP-A in close proximity to the cell surface is required for development of lesions in a murine model of atherosclerosis, the following PAPP-A transgenic (Tg) mice were generated: TgE483A, which lacks all PAPP-A proteolytic activity; TgD1499A, which selectively lacks proteolytic activity against IGFBP-4; and TgK1296A/K1316A, in which cell surface binding is compromised. Following cross-breeding with apolipoprotein E (ApoE) knockout (KO) mice, ApoE KO/Tg mice were fed a high-fat diet to promote aortic lesion development. Lesion area was increased 2-fold in aortas from ApoE KO/Tg wild-type compared with ApoE KO mice (P < 0.001). However, there was no significant increase in the lesion area in any of the ApoE KO/Tg mutant mice. We conclude that PAPP-A proteolytic activity is required for the lesion-promoting effect of PAPP-A and that its specificity must be directed against IGFBP-4. Furthermore, our data demonstrate that cleavage of IGFBP-4 at a distance from the cell surface, and hence from the IGF receptor, is not effective in promoting the development of the atherosclerotic lesions. Thus, PAPP-A exerts its effect while bound to the cell surface in vivo.
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