Peptidyl chloromethane and sulphonium salts containing multiple Arg and Lys residues were synthesized as potential inhibitors of prohormone and pro-protein processing proteinases. The potencies of these compounds were assayed by measuring the kinetics of inactivation of the yeast Kex2 proteinase, the prototype of a growing family of eukaryotic precursor processing proteinases. The most potent inhibitor, Pro-Nvl-Tyr-Lys-Arg-chloromethane, was based on cleavage sites in the natural Kex2 substrate pro-alpha-factor. This inhibitor exhibited a Ki of 3.7 nM and a second-order inactivation rate constant (k2/Ki) of 1.3 x 10(7) M-1.s-1 comparable with the value of kcat./Km obtained with Kex2 for the corresponding peptidyl methylcoumarinylamide substrate. The enzyme exhibited sensitivity to the other peptidyl chloromethanes over a range of concentrations, depending on peptide sequence and alpha-amino decanoylation, but was completely resistant to peptidyl sulphonium salts. Kinetics of inactivation by these new inhibitors of a set of ‘control’ proteinases, including members of both the trypsin and subtilisin families, underscored the apparent specificity of the compounds most active against Kex2 proteinase.

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