A Ca2+-activated cysteine proteinase (calpain II) was purified from chicken gizzard smooth muscle by use of isoelectric precipitation, (NH4)2SO4 fractionation, chromatography on DEAE-Sepharose CL-6B, Reactive-Red 120-agarose and Mono Q. The apparent second-order rate constants for the inactivation of calpain by a series of structural analogues of L-3-carboxy-trans-2, 3-epoxypropionyl-leucylamido-(4-guanidino)butane (E-64) were determined. The fastest rate of inactivation was observed with L-3-carboxy-trans-2, 3-epoxypropionyl-leucylamido-(4-benzyloxy-carbonylamino)buta ne. It was possible to determine the active-site molarity of solutions of calpain by titration with E-64. When incubated with Ca2+, calpain underwent several steps of intermolecular limited proteolysis, via multiple pathways, followed by a slower loss of enzymic activity. The proteolytic steps preceding the loss of activity did not affect the rates of reaction of calpain with E-64 analogues.

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