Citrullination, the conversion of peptidylarginine to peptidylcitrulline is catalyzed by peptidylarginine deiminases (PAD). The expression of PAD isoforms displays great variation among different tissues as demonstrated by PAD mRNA analyses. Here we have analyzed the differential expression of PAD2, PAD4 and PAD6 in mouse tissues at the protein level and by enzymatic activity assays using PAD2 and PAD4 knock-out strains. As expected, no PAD2 expression was detected in the PAD2-/- mice. In contrast, the PAD4 protein was observed in several tissues of the PAD4 knock-out mice, albeit at reduced levels in most tissues, and are therefore referred to as PAD4-low mice. In material from PAD2-/- mice, except for leukocyte lysates, hardly any PAD activity was found and no citrullinated proteins were detected after incubation in the presence of calcium. PAD activity in the PAD4-low mice was similar to that in wild-type mice. In both PAD knock-out strains the expression of PAD6 appeared to be up-regulated in all tissues analyzed, with the exception of spleen and testis. Our data demonstrate that the PAD2 protein is expressed in brain, spinal cord, spleen, skeletal muscle and leukocytes, but not detectably in liver, lung, kidney and testis. PAD4 was detected in each of these tissues, although the expression levels varied. In all tissues where PAD2 was detected, except for blood cells, this PAD isoform appeared to be responsible for virtually all peptidylarginine deiminase activity.
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