The interactions between egg-white cystatin and the cysteine proteinases papain, human cathepsin B and bovine dipeptidyl peptidase I were studied. Cystatin was shown to be a competitive reversible inhibitor of cathepsin B (Ki 1.7 nM, k-1 about 2.3×10(-3) s-1). The inhibition of dipeptidyl peptidase I was shown to be reversible (Ki(app.) 0.22 nM, k-1 about 2.2×10(-3) s-1). Cystatin bound papain too tightly for Ki to be determined, but an upper limit of 5 pM was estimated. The association was a second-order process, with k+1 1.0×10(7) M-1×s-1. Papain was shown to form equimolar complexes with cystatin. Sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis of complexes formed between papain or cathepsin B and an excess of cystatin showed no peptide bond cleavage after incubation for 72 h. The reaction of the active-site thiol group of papain with 5,5′-dithiobis-(2-nitrobenzoic acid) at pH 8 and 2,2′-dithiobispyridine at pH 4 was blocked by complex-formation. Dipeptidyl peptidase I and papain were found to compete for binding to cystatin, contrary to a previous report. The two major isoelectric forms of cystatin were found to have similar specific inhibitory activities for papain, and similar affinities for papain, cathepsin B and dipeptidyl peptidase I. This, together with specific oxidation of the N-terminal serine residue with periodate, showed the N-terminal amino group of cystatin 1 to be unimportant for inhibition. General citraconylation of amino groups resulted in a large decrease in the affinity of cystatin for dipeptidyl peptidase I. It is concluded that the interaction of cystatin with cysteine proteinases has many characteristics similar to those of an inhibitor such as aprotinin with serine proteinases.

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