Identification of the probable inhibitory reactive sites of the cysteine proteinase inhibitors human cystatin C and chicken cystatin

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When an excess of human cystatin C or chicken cystatin was mixed with papain, an enzyme-inhibitor complex was formed immediately. The residual free cystatin was then progressively converted to a form with different electrophoretic mobility and chromatographic properties. The modified cystatins were isolated and sequenced, showing that there had been cleavage of a single peptide bond in each molecule: Gly11-Gly12 in cystatin C, and Gly9-Ala10 in chicken cystatin. The residues Gly11 (cystatin C) and Gly9 (chicken cystatin) are among only three residues conserved in all known sequences of inhibitory cystatins. The modified cystatins were at least 1000-fold weaker inhibitors of papain than the native cystatins. An 18-residue synthetic peptide corresponding to residues 4-21 of cystatin C did not inhibit papain but was cleaved at the same Gly-Gly bond as cystatin C. When iodoacetate or L-3-carboxy- trans-2,3-epoxypropionyl-leucylamido-(4-guanidin o)butane was added to the mixtures of either cystatin with papain, modification of the excess cystatin was blocked. Papain-cystatin complexes were stable to prolonged incubation, even in the presence of excess papain. We conclude that the peptidyl bond of the conserved glycine residue in human cystatin C and chicken cystatin probably is part of a substrate- like inhibitory reactive site of these cysteine proteinase inhibitors of the cystatin superfamily and that this may be true also for other inhibitors of this superfamily. We also propose that human cystatin C and chicken cystatin, and probably other cystatins as well, inhibit cysteine proteinases by the simultaneous interactions with such proteinases of the inhibitory reactive sites and other, so far not identified, areas of the cystatins. The cleavage of the inhibitory reactive site glycyl bond in mixtures of papain with excess quantities of cystatins is apparently due to the activity of a small percentage of atypical cysteine proteinase molecules in the papain preparation that form only very loose complexes with cystatins under the conditions employed and degrade the free cystatin molecules.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Medicinal Chemistry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9688-9694
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 1987
Publication categoryResearch