60 YEARS OF POMC: From POMC and α-MSH to PAM, molecular oxygen, copper, and vitamin C

    1. Betty A Eipper1,2
    1. 1Departments of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut, USA
    2. 2Department of Neuroscience, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to R E Mains or B A Eipper; Email: mains{at}uchc.edu or eipper{at}uchc.edu


    A critical role for peptide C-terminal amidation was apparent when the first bioactive peptides were identified. The conversion of POMC into adrenocorticotropic hormone and then into α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, an amidated peptide, provided a model system for identifying the amidating enzyme. Peptidylglycine α-amidating monooxygenase (PAM), the only enzyme that catalyzes this modification, is essential; mice lacking PAM survive only until mid-gestation. Purification and cloning led to the discovery that the amidation of peptidylglycine substrates proceeds in two steps: peptidylglycine α-hydroxylating monooxygenase catalyzes the copper- and ascorbate-dependent α-hydroxylation of the peptidylglycine substrate; peptidyl-α-hydroxyglycine α-amidating lyase cleaves the N–C bond, producing amidated product and glyoxylate. Both enzymes are contained in the luminal domain of PAM, a type 1 integral membrane protein. The structures of both catalytic cores have been determined, revealing how they interact with metals, molecular oxygen, and substrate to catalyze both reactions. Although not essential for activity, the intrinsically disordered cytosolic domain is essential for PAM trafficking. A phylogenetic survey led to the identification of bifunctional membrane PAM in Chlamydomonas, a unicellular eukaryote. Accumulating evidence points to a role for PAM in copper homeostasis and in retrograde signaling from the lumen of the secretory pathway to the nucleus. The discovery of PAM in cilia, cellular antennae that sense and respond to environmental stimuli, suggests that much remains to be learned about this ancient protein.

    • Received 8 December 2015
    • Accepted 14 December 2015
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 1 May 2016
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