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What is Furin?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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Furin is an enzyme, a biologically active protein involved in mediating body functions. Like other enzymes, it works by triggering chemical reactions. This particular enzyme is capable of cleaving proteins to make them biologically active, and it performs a number of different functions in the body. The genes for furin are encoded on the 15th chromosome and the precise position of these genes has been pinpointed by enzyme researchers.

Biological activities in the body from moving muscles to fighting infection rely on the activation of precursor proteins. These proteins are not functional until they are altered in some way by enzymes. Building precursor proteins allows the body to stockpile supplies so enzymes can activate them as needed, in contrast with having to build proteins for specific functions on demand. Furin circulates through the body and activates these proteins as required; one place where this enzyme can be found is in T-cells.

Also known as paired basic amino acid cleaving enzyme (PACE), furin works by cleaving amino acid pairs to make proteins biologically active. This enzyme targets specific kinds of amino acid pairs, hitting key points in the structure of a protein to cause it to change length and shape. The enzyme has been successfully isolated and can be used in the lab for research by people interested in exploring proteins and the ways they change to accommodate changing environments and needs.

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Furin cleaves precursor proteins for blood clotting factors, as well as compounds involved in cell growth and signaling. Errors with this process can result in rogue cells or deficiencies in clotting factors. This enzyme appears to play a role in the progression of tumors, probably because it is involved with the production of growth factor receptors. Studying different kinds of tumors provides important information about why the body allows them to grow, and in some cases, how the body accidentally promotes tumor growth instead of attacking the tumors.

This enzyme also appears to be involved in the pathology of several infections, including HIV. Many infectious agents are not biologically active until they are treated with enzymes in the body; furin is capable of cleaving proteins in the envelopes surrounding viruses to make them functional. Research on how viruses and other organisms cause disease involves exploration of developing enzyme inhibitors to stop enzymes like furin from doing their work. People exposed to HIV could potentially take an inhibitor and block the enzyme, preventing the HIV from propagating in the body.

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