Selective cleavage of human sex hormone-binding globulin by kallikrein-related peptidases and effects on androgen action in LNCaP prostate cancer cells.Endocrinology 2012; 153(7):3179-89E
Stimulation of the androgen receptor via bioavailable androgens, including testosterone and testosterone metabolites, is a key driver of prostate development and the early stages of prostate cancer. Androgens are hydrophobic and as such require carrier proteins, including sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), to enable efficient distribution from sites of biosynthesis to target tissues. The similarly hydrophobic corticosteroids also require a carrier protein whose affinity for steroid is modulated by proteolysis. However, proteolytic mechanisms regulating the SHBG/androgen complex have not been reported. Here, we show that the cancer-associated serine proteases, kallikrein-related peptidase (KLK)4 and KLK14, bind strongly to SHBG in glutathione S-transferase interaction analyses. Further, we demonstrate that active KLK4 and KLK14 cleave human SHBG at unique sites and in an androgen-dependent manner. KLK4 separated androgen-free SHBG into its two laminin G-like (LG) domains that were subsequently proteolytically stable even after prolonged digestion, whereas a catalytically equivalent amount of KLK14 reduced SHBG to small peptide fragments over the same period. Conversely, proteolysis of 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT)-bound SHBG was similar for both KLKs and left the steroid binding LG4 domain intact. Characterization of this proteolysis fragment by [(3)H]-labeled DHT binding assays revealed that it retained identical affinity for androgen compared with full-length SHBG (dissociation constant = 1.92 nM). Consistent with this, both full-length SHBG and SHBG-LG4 significantly increased DHT-mediated transcriptional activity of the androgen receptor compared with DHT delivered without carrier protein. Collectively, these data provide the first evidence that SHBG is a target for proteolysis and demonstrate that a stable fragment derived from proteolysis of steroid-bound SHBG retains binding function in vitro.