Human kallikrein-related peptidase 6 (KLK6) is a member of the kallikrein family of serine-type proteases, characterized as an arginine-specific digestive-type protease capable of degrading a wide-variety of extracellular matrix proteins. KLK6 has been proposed to be a useful biomarker for breast and ovarian cancer prognosis, is abundantly expressed in the CNS and cerebrospinal fluid, and is intimately associated with regions of active inflammatory demyelination in multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions. Inhibition of KLK6 results in delayed onset and reduced severity of symptoms associated with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, suggesting a key effector role for this protease in CNS inflammatory disease. KLK6 has been shown to autolytically cleave internally, leading to inactivation and suggesting a negative feedback inhibition control mechanism. Alternatively, the ability of KLK6 to self-activate has also been reported, suggesting a positive feedback activation loop control mechanism. Activation of pro-KLK6 requires hydrolysis after a Lys residue; however, KLK6 exhibits 2 order of magnitude reduced affinity for hydrolysis after Lys versus Arg residues; therefore, the ability to autolytically activate has been called into question. In the present study the catalytic activity of KLK6 toward its pro-sequence and internal autolytic sequence is characterized. The results show that the ability of KLK6 to activate pro-KLK6 is essentially negligible when compared to the rate of the internal autolytic inactivation or to the ability of other proteases to activate pro-KLK6. The results thus show that the primary autolytic regulatory mechanism of KLK6 is negative feedback inhibition, and activation is likely achieved through the action of a separate protease.
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