Aminopeptidase A (APA) is a membrane-bound monozinc aminopeptidase. In the brain, APA generates angiotensin III which exerts a tonic stimulatory effect on the control of blood pressure (BP) in hypertensive animals. The oral administration of RB150 renamed firibastat by WHO, an APA inhibitor prodrug, targeting only the S1 subsite, decreases BP in hypertensive patients from various ethnic origins. To identify new families of potent and selective APA inhibitors, we explored the organization of the APA active site, especially the S2′ subsite. By molecular modeling, docking, molecular dynamics simulations and site-directed mutagenesis, we revealed that Arg368 and Arg386, in the S2′ subsite of human APA established various types of interactions in major part with the P2′ residue but also with the P1′ residue of APA inhibitors, required for their nanomolar inhibitory potency. We also demonstrated an important role for Arg368 in APA catalysis, in maintaining the structural integrity of the GAMEN motif, a conserved sequence involved in exopeptidase specificity and optimal positioning of the substrate in monozinc aminopeptidases. This arginine together with the GAMEN motif are key players for the catalytic mechanism of these enzymes.

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