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The Ste20-related kinase SPAK regulates sodium, potassium, and chloride transport in a variety of tissues. Recently, SPAK fragments, which lack the catalytic domain and are inhibitory to Na(+) transporters, have been detected in kidney. It has been hypothesized that the fragments originate from alternative translation start sites, but their precise origin is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that kidney lysate possesses proteolytic cleavage activity toward SPAK. Ion exchange and size exclusion chromatography combined with mass spectrometry identified the protease as aspartyl aminopeptidase. The presence of the protease was verified in the active fractions, and recombinant aspartyl aminopeptidase recapitulated the cleavage pattern observed with kidney lysate. Identification of the sites of cleavage by mass spectrometry allowed us to test the function of the smaller fragments and demonstrate their inhibitory action toward the Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) cotransporter, NKCC2.
© 2014 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.