The precursor region of a protein active in sperm-egg fusion contains a metalloprotease and a disintegrin domain: Structural, functional, and evolutionary implications
PH-30, a sperm surface protein involved in sperm-egg fusion, is composed of two subunits, alpha and beta, which are synthesized as precursors and processed, during sperm development, to yield the mature forms. The mature PH-30 alpha/beta complex resembles certain viral fusion proteins in membrane topology and predicted binding and fusion functions. Furthermore, the mature subunits are similar in sequence to each other and to a family of disintegrin domain-containing snake venom proteins. We report here the sequences of the PH-30 alpha and beta precursor regions. Their domain organizations are similar to each other and to precursors of snake venom metalloproteases and disintegrins. The alpha precursor region contains, from amino to carboxyl terminus, pro, metalloprotease, and disintegrin domains. The beta precursor region contains pro and metalloprotease domains. Residues diagnostic of a catalytically active metalloprotease are present in the alpha, but not the beta, precursor region. We propose that the active sites of the PH-30 alpha and snake venom metalloproteases are structurally similar to that of astacin. PH-30, acting through its metalloprotease and/or disintegrin domains, could be involved in sperm development as well as sperm-egg binding and fusion. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that PH-30 stems from a multidomain ancestral protein.