Proprotein convertases regulate trafficking and maturation of key proteins within the secretory pathway.
Proprotein Convertases (PCs) are serine endoproteases that regulate the homeostasis of protein substrates in the cell. The PCs family counts 9 members-PC1/3, PC2, PC4, PACE4, PC5/6, PC7, Furin, SKI-1/S1P, and PCSK9. The first seven PCs are known as Basic Proprotein Convertases due to their propensity to cleave after polybasic clusters. SKI-1/S1P requires the additional presence of hydrophobic residues for processing, whereas PCSK9 is catalytically dead after autoactivation and exerts its functions using mechanisms alternative to direct cleavage. All PCs traffic through the canonical secretory pathway, reaching different compartments where the various substrates reside. Despite PCs members do not share the same subcellular localization, most of the cellular organelles count one or more Proprotein Convertases, including ER, Golgi stack, endosomes, secretory granules, and plasma membranes. The widespread expression of these enzymes at the systemic level speaks for their importance in the homeostasis of a large number of biological functions. Among others, PCs cleave precursors of hormones and growth factors and activate receptors and transcription factors. Notably, dysregulation of the enzymatic activity of Proprotein Convertases is associated to major human pathologies, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, infections, inflammation, autoimmunity diseases, and Parkinson. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, Furin has further attracted the attention as a key player for conferring high pathogenicity to SARS-CoV-2. Here, we review the Proprotein Convertases family and their most important substrates along the secretory pathway. Knowledge about the complex functions of PCs is important to identify potential drug strategies targeting this class of enzymes.