Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Analysis of the mast cell expressed carboxypeptidase A3 and its structural and evolutionary relationship to other vertebrate carboxypeptidases

Akula, Srinivas; Hellman, Lars; Aviles, Francesc Xavier; Wernersson, Sara


Metallo-carboxypeptidases are exopeptidases with diverse expression and function, found in all kingdoms of life from bacteria to mammals. One of them, the carboxypeptidase A3 (CPA3), has become an important component of the mammalian immune system by its expression in mast cells. Mast cells (MCs) are highly specialized sentinel cells, which store large amounts of bioactive mediators, including CPA3, in very abundant cytoplasmic granules. Clinical studies have found an increased CPA3 expression in asthma but the physiological role as well as the evolutionary origin of CPA3 remains largely unexplored. CPA3 belongs to the M14A subfamily of metallocarboxypeptidases, which among others also includes the digestive enzymes CPA1, CPA2, CPB1 and CPO. To study the appearance of CPA3 during vertebrate evolution, we here performed bioinformatic analyses of homologous genes and gene loci from a broad panel of metazoan animals from invertebrates to mammals. The phylogenetic analysis indicated that CPA3 appeared at the base of tetrapod evolution in a branch closer to CPB1 than to other CPAs. Indeed, CPA3 and CPB1 are also located in the same locus, on chromosome 3 in humans. The presence of CPA3 only in tetrapods and not in fishes, suggested that CPA3 could have appeared by a gene duplication from CPB1 during early tetrapod evolution. However, the apparent loss of CPA3 in several tetrapod lineages, e.g. in birds and monotremes, indicates a complex evolution of the CPA3 gene. Interestingly, in the lack of CPA3 in fishes, zebrafish MCs express instead CPA5 for which the most closely related human carboxypeptidase is CPA1, which has a similar cleavage specificity as CPA3. Collectively, these findings clarify and add to our understanding of the evolution of hematopoietic proteases expressed by mast cells.


Mast cells; Carboxypeptidase; Granule proteases; Evolution

Published in

Developmental and Comparative Immunology
2022, Volume: 127, article number: 104273