Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Posttranslational processing of defensins in immature human myeloid cells

  1. EV Valore and
  2. T Ganz
  1. Will Rogers Institute Pulmonary Research Laboratory, University of California, Los Angeles.


Human neutrophil promyelocytes synthesize, process, and package several microbicidal proteins, including the highly abundant defensins, into their azurophil granules. As deduced from their cDNA sequences, defensins are initially synthesized as 94 amino acid (aa) precursors that must undergo extensive processing. We performed metabolic labeling studies of defensin synthesis in the human promyelocytic cell line HL- 60 and in chronic myeloid leukemia cells, and showed that preprodefensins are processed to mature 29 to 30 aa defensins over 4 to 24 hours via two major intermediates: a 75 aa prodefensin generated by the cleavage of the signal sequence, and a 56 aa prodefensin that results from a subsequent preaspartate proteolytic cleavage. Almost all of the 75 aa form was found in the cytoplasmic/microsomal fraction, whereas the 56 aa prodefensin and mature defensins predominated in the granule-enriched fraction. The 75 aa prodefensin was also selectively released into the culture supernatant. Treatment of HL-60 cells with monensin, chloroquine, or ammonium chloride, substances that neutralize acidic subcellular compartments, partially blocked conversion of the 75 aa prodefensin into 56 aa prodefensin, but did not increase the extracellular release of the 75 aa form. Further studies will be required to determine the role of this processing pathway in subcellular targeting to azurophil granules and avoidance of autocytotoxicity.