Summary: The interrelationship of the multiple cysteine proteases (CPs) found characteristically at high activity in amastigotes has been investigated. The mature forms of the five enzymes of groups B and C, which have subtly different substrate preferences, are the same size. Enzymically deglycosylated group A CP proteins also have the same molecular mass. Proteases of all three groups are specifically recognized by antisera raised against the group B or group C CPs. In addition, CPs of groups A, B and C have highly similar N-terminal amino acid sequences. The consensus sequence matches that predicted from the sequenced gene, which occurs in a tandem array of over ten similar genes. Thus, the results are consistent with the groups A, B and C CPs being products of different genes within the array, the different genes encoding CPs with identical N-termini, but with limited amino acid substitutions within the mature enzyme accounting for the different properties of the CPs. Evidence is also presented to indicate membrane-association of proteolytically active but less processed forms of products.


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