The latent forms of stromelysin and collagenase from human gingival fibroblasts were purified to homogeneity. These latent proenzymes underwent serial small reductions in Mr upon activation by treatment with either 4-aminophenylmercuric acetate or trypsin. Similar shifts in Mr and activation kinetics were observed upon identical treatments of either recombinant prostromelysin or procollagenase. Prostromelysin showed a lag between activation and Mr fall, suggesting an initial activation by conformational change. Collagenase activity was enhanced up to 12-fold by either natural or recombinant stromelysin in the presence of trypsin or 4-aminophenylmercuric acetate. Stromelysin caused a further apparent decrease in the Mr of procollagenase. Since these important connective-tissue-degrading enzymes are usually co-ordinately produced by cells, a cascade mechanism is proposed in which collagenase is activated by stromelysin.

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