Protein disulphide isomerase (PDI; EC 5.3.4.1) is a multifunctional polypeptide that is identical to the β subunit of prolyl 4-hydroxylases. We report here on the cloning and expression of the Caenorhabditis elegans PDI/β polypeptide and its isoform. The overall amino acid sequence identity and similarity between the processed human and C. elegans PDI/β polypeptides are 61% and 85% respectively, and those between the C. elegans PDI/β polypeptide and the PDI isoform 46% and 73%. The isoform differs from the PDI/β and ERp60 polypeptides in that its N-terminal thioredoxin-like domain has an unusual catalytic site sequence -CVHC-. Expression studies in insect cells demonstrated that the C. elegans PDI/β polypeptide forms an active prolyl 4-hydroxylase α2β2 tetramer with the human α subunit and an αβ dimer with the C. elegans α subunit, whereas the C. elegans PDI isoform formed no prolyl 4-hydroxylase with either α subunit. Removal of the 32-residue C-terminal extension from the C. elegans α subunit totally eliminated αβ dimer formation. The C. elegans PDI/β polypeptide formed less prolyl 4-hydroxylase with both the human and C. elegans α subunits than did the human PDI/β polypeptide, being particularly ineffective with the C. elegans α subunit. Experiments with hybrid polypeptides in which the C-terminal regions had been exchanged between the human and C. elegans PDI/β polypeptides indicated that differences in the C-terminal region are one reason, but not the only one, for the differences in prolyl 4-hydroxylase formation between the human and C. elegans PDI/β polypeptides. The catalytic properties of the C. elegans prolyl 4-hydroxylase αβ dimer were very similar to those of the vertebrate type II prolyl 4-hydroxylase tetramer, including the Km for the hydroxylation of long polypeptide substrates.

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