Tumour necrosis factor α convertase (TACE) is a metalloprotease/disintegrin involved in the ectodomain shedding of several proteins, a process thought to be important in inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis and murine development. The characterization of the intracellular maturation and subcellular localization of endogenous TACE is decribed in the present study. Similarly to other proteolytically active metalloprotease/disintegrins, two forms of TACE are found in cells; a full-length precursor and a mature form lacking the prodomain. Prodomain removal occurs in a late Golgi compartment, consistent with the proposed role of a furin type proprotein convertase in this process. An additional form of TACE, lacking the pro and cytoplasmic domains, is detected when cell lysates are prepared in the presence of EDTA instead of a hydroxamate-based metalloprotease inhibitor or 1,10-phenanthroline. This form appears to be generated by mature TACE cleaving its own cytoplasmic tail and may explain why little mature TACE has been detected in previous studies. In cell-surface labelling experiments, mature TACE was detected on the cell surface but immunofluorescence data indicate that TACE is predominantly localized to a perinuclear compartment similar to that described for tumour necrosis factor (TNF)α. This raises the possibility that TACE-mediated ectodomain shedding may occur in an intracellular compartment in addition to the cell surface.

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