SH-EP is a cysteine protease from germinating mung bean (Vigna mungo) that possesses a carboxyl-terminal endoplasmic reticulum (ER) retention sequence, KDEL. In order to examine the function of the ER retention sequence, we expressed a full-length cDNA of SH-EP and a minus-KDEL control in insect Sf-9 cells using the baculovirus system. Our observations on the synthesis, processing, and trafficking of SH-EP in Sf-9 cells suggest that the KDEL ER-retention sequence is posttranslationally removed either while the protein is still in the ER or immediately after its exit from the ER, resulting in the accumulation of proSH-EP minus its KDEL signal. It is this intermediate form that appears to progress through the endomembrane system and is subsequently processed to form mature active SH-EP. The removal of an ER retention may regulate protein delivery to a functional site and present an alternative role for ER retention sequences in addition to their well established role in maintaining the protein composition of the ER lumen.
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