The interactions of human pancreatic elastase 2 with alpha 1-proteinase inhibitor and alpha 1-antichymotrypsin were compared by studies in vitro. The equimolar complexes obtained between the enzyme and either inhibitor were relatively stable at 25 degrees C since they could be visualized for up to 5 days by an electrophoretic method. However, in both cases, a slow dissociation occurred with release of active enzyme. As the kass. rate constants are of the same order of magnitude, with a slightly lower value for alpha 1-proteinase inhibitor when compared with alpha 1-antichymotrypsin [(5.6 +/- 1.2) X 10(5) and (8.9 +/- 1.3) X 10(5) M-1.s-1 respectively], partition of human pancreatic elastase 2 between both inhibitors in human plasma is mainly dependent on their respective concentrations. A comparative study by crossed immunoelectrophoresis of the interactions of this enzyme with the two inhibitors contained in normal human plasma and in a mimetic mixture of pure inhibitors was carried out. This allowed the visualization of complexes with either inhibitor. Formation of such a complex with alpha 1-antichymotrypsin had never been demonstrated previously. The patterns obtained are similar when working with normal plasma or with the synthetic mixture, suggesting that, in the conditions used, alpha 1-proteinase inhibitor and alpha 1-antichymotrypsin are the main inhibitors of human pancreatic elastase 2 in the plasma sample. However, it is also shown that part of the enzyme may be taken up by alpha 2-macroglobulin, which is responsible for the remaining enzyme activity on a synthetic substrate. The present work suggests that, according to the delay times of inhibition of human pancreatic elastase 2 calculated from the normal plasma concentrations of alpha 1-proteinase inhibitor and alpha 1-antichymotrypsin, a significant role can be assigned to both inhibitors. Moreover, the role of alpha 1-antichymotrypsin would be enhanced in alpha 1-proteinase-inhibitor deficiency.

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