Background: Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine today identified as a key mediator of several chronic inflammatory diseases. TNF-α, initially synthesized as a membrane-anchored precursor (pro-TNF-α), is processed by proteolytic cleavage to generate the secreted mature form. TNF-α converting enzyme (TACE) is currently the first and single protease described as responsible for the inducible release of soluble TNF-α.
Methodology/principal findings: Here, we demonstrated the presence on THP-1 cells as on human monocytes of a constitutive proteolytical activity able to cleave pro-TNF-α. Revelation of the cell surface TACE protein expression confirmed that the observed catalytic activity is due to TACE. However, further studies using effective and innovative TNF-α inhibitors, as well as a highly selective TACE inhibitor, support the presence of a catalytically different sheddase activity on LPS activated THP-1 cells. It appears that this catalytically different TACE protease activity might have a significant contribution to TNF-α release in LPS activated THP-1 cells, by contrast to human monocytes where the TACE activity remains catalytically unchanged even after LPS activation.
Conclusions/significance: On the surface of LPS activated THP-1 cells we identified a releasing TNF-α activity, catalytically different from the sheddase activity observed on human monocytes from healthy donors. This catalytically-modified TACE activity is different from the constitutive shedding activity and appears only upon stimulation by LPS.