The somatic and testis isoforms of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) are both C-terminally anchored ectoproteins that are shed by an unidentified secretase. Although testis and somatic ACE both share the same stalk and membrane domains the latter was reported to be shed inefficiently compared with testis ACE, and this was ascribed to cleavage at an alternative site [Beldent, Michaud, Bonnefoy, Chauvet and Corvol (1995) J. Biol. Chem. 270, 28962-28969]. These differences constitute a useful model system of the regulation and substrate preferences of the ACE secretase, and hence we investigated this further. In transfected Chinese hamster ovary cells, human somatic ACE (hsACE) was indeed shed less efficiently than human testis ACE, and shedding of somatic ACE responded poorly to phorbol ester activation. However, using several analytical techniques, we found no evidence that the somatic ACE cleavage site differed from that characterized in testis ACE. First, anti-peptide antibodies raised to specific sequences on either side of the reported cleavage site (Arg1137/Leu1138) clearly recognized soluble porcine somatic ACE, indicating that cleavage was C-terminal to Arg1137. Second, a competitive ELISA gave superimposable curves for porcine plasma ACE, secretase-cleaved porcine somatic ACE (eACE), and trypsin-cleaved ACE, suggesting similar C-terminal sequences. Third, mass-spectral analyses of digests of released soluble hsACE or of eACE enabled precise assignments of the C-termini, in each case to Arg1203. These data indicated that soluble human and porcine somatic ACE, whether generated in vivo or in vitro, have C-termini consistent with cleavage at a single site, the Arg1203/Ser1204 bond, identical with the Arg627/Ser628 site in testis ACE. In conclusion, the inefficient release of somatic ACE is not due to cleavage at an alternative stalk site, but instead supports the hypothesis that the testis ACE ectodomain contains a motif that activates shedding, which is occluded by the additional domain found in somatic ACE.

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