Specific interactions between parasites and extracellular matrix components are an important mechanism in the dissemination of Chagas' disease. Binding of the extracellular matrix proteins to Trypanosoma cruzireceptors has been described as a significant step in this phenomenon. In this study, a specific proteinase activity was identified in cell-free extracts of amastigote, trypomastigote and epimastigote forms of T. cruziusing the collagenase fluorogenic substrate N-Suc-Gly-Pro-Leu-Gly-Pro-7-amido-4-methylcoumarin. Isolation of this activity was achieved by a four-step FPLC procedure. Optimal enzyme activity was found to occur at pH 8.0 and was associated with a single T. cruzi80 kDa protein (Tc 80 proteinase) on SDS/PAGE under reducing conditions. An internal peptide sequence of Tc 80 proteinase was obtained (AGDNYTPPE), and no similarity was found to previously described proteinases of T. cruzi. This enzyme activity is strongly inhibited by HgCl2, tosyl-lysylchloromethane (‘TLCK’) p-chloromercuribenzoate and benzyloxycarbonyl-Phe-Ala-diazomethane. The purified enzyme was able to hydrolyse purified human [14C]collagen types I and IV at neutral pH, but not 14C-labelled BSA, rat laminin, rabbit IgG or small proteins such as insulin or cytochrome c. In addition, Tc 80 proteinase activity was found to be secreted by T. cruziforms infective to mammalian cells. Furthermore we demonstrated that purified Tc 80 proteinase mediates native collagen type I hydrolysis in rat mesentery. This feature is compared with that of Clostridium histolyticum collagenase. These findings suggest that Tc 80 proteinase may facilitate T. cruzihost-cell infection by degrading the collagens of the extracellular matrix and could represent a good target for Chagas' disease chemotherapy.

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