A murine aspartic proteinase, described herein, is intermediate in amino acid sequence identity between the placentally produced pregnancy-associated glycoproteins (PAGs) and gastric pepsins. While PAGs are secreted products of placental trophoblast tissue of ungulates and most are not believed to function proteolytically, pepsins are digestive enzymes. The cDNA for this aspartic proteinase was amplified by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction from RNA extracted from murine placentas and neonatal stomachs. The open reading frame encoded a 387-amino acid polypeptide with a 15-residue signal sequence. The enzyme most resembled pepsinogen F (a protein identified in the stomachs of neonatal rabbits and rats) and PAG-like proteins cloned from equine and feline placentae. In the stomach, both its mRNA and protein were expressed in gastric chief cells of preweaned neonates. Within the placenta, its mRNA was present in both the parietal and visceral yolk sacs. However, the protein was most prevalent in the visceral yolk sac, with little detectable in the parietal yolk sac. The recombinant protein was expressed in Escherichia coli. This protein was capable of self-activation and exhibited proteolytic activity toward casein. The presence of this enzyme in two organs involved in the selective transcellular transport of proteins suggests that it has specialized digestive functions.
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