Anosmin-1, the gene product of the KAL gene, is implicated in the pathogenesis of X-linked Kallmann's syndrome. Anosmin-1 protein expression is restricted to the basement membrane and interstitial matrix of tissues affected in this syndrome during development. The anosmin-1 sequence indicates an N-terminal cysteine-rich domain, a whey acidic protein (WAP) domain, four fibronectin type III (FnIII) domains and a C-terminal histidine-rich region, and shows similarity with cell-adhesion molecules, such as neural cell-adhesion molecule, TAG-1 and L1. We investigated the structural and functional significance of three loss-of-function missense mutations of anosmin-1 using comparative modelling of the four FnIII and the WAP domains based on known NMR and crystal structures. Three missense mutation-encoded amino acid substitutions, N267K, E514K and F517L, were mapped to structurally defined positions on the GFCC′ β-sheet face of the first and third FnIII domains. Electrostatic maps demonstrated large basic surfaces containing clusters of conserved predicted heparan sulphate-binding residues adjacent to these mutation sites. To examine these modelling results anosmin-1 was expressed in insect cells. The incorporation of the three mutations into recombinant anosmin-1 had no effect on its secretion. The removal of two dibasic motifs that may constitute potential physiological cleavage sites for anosmin-1 had no effect on cleavage. Peptides based on the anosmin-1 sequences R254–K285 and P504–K527 were then synthesized in order to assess the effect of the three mutations on cellular adhesion, using cell lines that represented potential functional targets of anosmin-1. Peptides (10μg/ml) incorporating the N267K and E514K substitutions promoted enhanced adhesion to 13.S.1.24 rat olfactory epithelial cells and canine MDCK1 kidney epithelial cells (P<0.01) compared with the wild-type peptides. This result was attributed to the introduction of a lysine residue adjacent to the large basic surfaces. We predict that two of the three missense mutants increase the binding of anosmin-1 to an extracellular target, possibly by enhancing heparan sulphate binding, and that this critically affects the function of anosmin-1.

Abbreviations used: FnIII, fibronectin type III; PDB, Protein Data Bank; WAP, whey acidic protein; N-CAM, neural cell-adhesion molecule; MDCK1, Madin–Darby canine kidney; N267K etc., mutation of Asn267 to Lys etc.

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