Shedding of cancer susceptibility candidate 4 by the convertases PC7/furin unravels a novel secretory protein implicated in cancer progression

Cell Death Dis. 2020 Aug 20;11(8):665. doi: 10.1038/s41419-020-02893-0.


The proprotein convertases (PCs) are responsible for the maturation of precursor proteins, and are involved in multiple and critical biological processes. Over the past 30 years, the PCs have had great translational applications, but the physiological roles of PC7, the seventh member of the family, are still obscure. Searching for new substrates of PC7, a quantitative proteomics screen for selective enrichment of N-glycosylated polypeptides secreted from hepatic HuH7 cells identified two human type-II transmembrane proteins of unknown function(s): Cancer Susceptibility Candidate 4 (CASC4) and Golgi Phosphoprotein of 130 kDa (GPP130/GOLIM4). Concentrating on CASC4, its mutagenesis characterized the PC7/Furin-shedding site to occur at KR66↓NS, in HEK293 cells. We defined PC7 and Furin trafficking and activity, and demonstrated that CASC4 shedding occurs in acidic endosomes and/or in the trans-Golgi Network. Our data unraveled a cancer-protective role for CASC4, because siRNA silencing of endogenous CASC4 expression in the invasive triple-negative breast cancer human cell line MDA-MB-231 resulted in a significantly increased cellular migration and invasion. Conversely, MDA-MB-231 cells stably expressing CASC4 exhibited reduced migration and invasion, which can be explained by an increased number of paxillin-positive focal adhesions. This phenotypic cancer-protective role of CASC4 is reversed in cells overexpressing an optimally PC7/Furin-cleaved CASC4 mutant, or upon overexpression of the N-terminally convertase-generated membrane-bound segment. This phenotype was associated with increased formation of podosome-like structures, especially evident in cells overexpressing the N-terminal fragment. In accord, breast cancer patients' data sets show that high CASC4 and PCSK7 expression levels predict a significantly worse prognosis compared to high CASC4 but low PCSK7 levels. In conclusion, CASC4 shedding not only disrupts its anti-migratory/invasive role, but also generates a membrane-bound fragment that drastically modifies the actin cytoskeleton, resulting in an enhanced cellular migration and invasion. This phenotype might be clinically relevant in the prognosis of breast cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Progression
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Furin / genetics
  • Furin / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proprotein Convertases / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Protein Transport
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Subtilisins / genetics
  • Subtilisins / metabolism*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • PCSK7 protein, human
  • Proprotein Convertases
  • Subtilisins
  • proprotein convertase PC7
  • FURIN protein, human
  • Furin