PCSK1, encoding prohormone convertase 1/3 (PC1/3), was one of the first genes linked to monogenic early-onset obesity. PC1/3 is a protease involved in the biosynthetic processing of a variety of neuropeptides and prohormones in endocrine tissues. PC1/3 activity is essential for the activating cleavage of many peptide hormone precursors implicated in the regulation of food ingestion, glucose homeostasis, and energy homeostasis, for example, proopiomelanocortin, proinsulin, proglucagon, and proghrelin. A large number of genome-wide association studies in a variety of different populations have now firmly established a link between three PCSK1 polymorphisms frequent in the population and increased risk of obesity. Human subjects with PC1/3 deficiency, a rare autosomal-recessive disorder caused by the presence of loss-of-function mutations in both alleles, are obese and display a complex set of endocrinopathies. Increasing numbers of genetic diagnoses of infants with persistent diarrhea has recently led to the finding of many novel PCSK1 mutations. PCSK1-deficient infants experience severe intestinal malabsorption during the first years of life, requiring controlled nutrition; these children then become hyperphagic, with associated obesity. The biochemical characterization of novel loss-of-function PCSK1 mutations has resulted in the discovery of new pathological mechanisms affecting the cell biology of the endocrine cell beyond simple loss of enzyme activity, for example, dominant-negative effects of certain mutants on wild-type PC1/3 protein, and activation of the cellular unfolded protein response by endoplasmic reticulum-retained mutants. A better understanding of these molecular and cellular pathologies may illuminate possible treatments for the complex endocrinopathy of PCSK1 deficiency, including obesity.
Keywords: PC1/3; PCSK1; feeding; genome-wide association studies; glucose metabolism; obesity; peptide hormone; posttranslational processing; prohormone convertase 1/3; secretory pathway.
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