Proprotein convertases (PCs) are Ca2+-dependent serine proteases of the subtilisin/kexin family which are known specifically to cleave propeptide and proprotein substrates at the C-terminal of R-X-(K/R)-R↓ to generate the relevant biologically active peptides. PCs are initially synthesized as enzymically inactive proenzyme forms where the prosegments play an important inhibitory role to the respective enzymes. Here we investigated whether synthetic peptides derived from the pro-region could also represent specific and potent inhibitors. Based upon sequence alignment, secondary structure analysis and hydrophilicity plot, a number of peptides ranging from 8 to 33 residues were selected. These included segments encompassing residues 55–62, 50–62, 39–62, 50–83, 55–83, 64–83 and 74–83 in the pro-mouse PC1/3 sequence and residues 54–62, 48–62 and 39–62 of the pro-human furin sequence. All peptides were prepared by solid-phase FastMoc chemistry, purified by reversed-phase HPLC and characterized by MS and amino acid analysis. These peptides were tested in vitro for inhibitory activity towards recombinant mouse PC1/3 and human furin. Progress-curve and end-time kinetic analysis demonstrated that a number of these peptides, particularly those containing both the primary and the secondary processing sites, displayed strong inhibition of both enzymes with inhibition constants (Ki) in the high nanomolar range. Unlike the whole propeptide, these small synthetic peptide inhibitors exhibited either true competitive or mixed competitive inhibition, depending on the sequence. Our data revealed further the critical role of the last two basic amino acid residues (e.g. Lys82-Arg83 for the mouse PC1/3 sequence) of the prodomain in imparting a strong anti-convertase activity. The study also establishes the inhibitory potential of certain regions contained within the prosegment of the two convertases.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.