New insights into cathepsin D in mammary tissue development and remodeling

Naira V. Margaryan, Dawn A. Kirschmann, Alina Lipavsky, Caleb M. Bailey, Mary J.C. Hendrix, Zhila Khalkhali-Ellis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Cathepsin D (CatD) is a lysosomal aspartyl endopeptidase originally considered a "house keeping enzyme" involved in the clearance of unwanted proteins. However, recent studies have revealed CatD's involvement in apoptosis and autophagy, thus signifying an important function in the proper development and maintenance of multi-cellular organs. In the mammary gland, matrix degradation and the remodeling process are orchestrated by proteolytic enzymes, but the role of CatD at distinct developmental stages has remained mostly unexplored. Based on our previous studies we sought to address the role of this endopeptidase in mammary gland development and remodeling. By employing a mouse model, we report a previously unidentified participation of CatD in different stages of mammary gland development. Our findings reveal that CatD undergoes distinct protein processing at different stages of mammary gland development, and this customized processing results in differential enzymatic activity (constitutive and low pH activatable) best fitting particular stage(s) of development. In addition, at the onset of involution the N-glycan structure of this endopeptidase switches from a mixed high mannose and hybrid structure to an almost exclusively high mannose type, but reverts back to the original N-glycan composition by day 4 of involution. Our findings illuminate (at least in part) the "raison d'être" for CatD's numerous and highly regulated proteolytic processing steps from the pro-form to the mature enzyme. In the mammary gland, specific cleavage product(s) perform specialized function(s) befitting each stage of remodeling. It is noteworthy that deregulated synthesis, secretion and glycosylation of CatD are hallmarks of cancer progression. Thus, identifying the role of CatD in a dynamic normal tissue undergoing highly regulated cycles of remodeling could provide valuable information illuminating the deregulation of CatD associated with cancer development and metastasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-466
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Biology and Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


  • Cathepsin D
  • Enzymatic activity
  • Mammary gland
  • N-glycan structures
  • Proteolytic cleavage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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