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Development of selective protease inhibitors via engineering of the bait region of human α2-macroglobulin

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Human α2-macroglobulin (A2M) is an abundant protease inhibitor in plasma, which regulates many proteolytic processes and is involved in innate immunity. A2M's unique protease-trapping mechanism of inhibition is initiated when a protease cleaves within the exposed and highly susceptible "bait region." As the wild-type bait region is permissive to cleavage by most human proteases, A2M is accordingly a broad-spectrum protease inhibitor. In this study, we extensively modified the bait region in order to identify any potential functionally important elements in the bait region sequence and to engineer A2M proteins with restrictive bait regions, which more selectively inhibit a target protease. A2M in which the bait region was entirely replaced by glycine-serine repeats remained fully functional and was not cleaved by any tested protease. Therefore, this bait region was designated as the "tabula rasa" bait region and used as the starting point for further bait region engineering. Cleavage of the tabula rasa bait region by specific proteases was conveyed by the insertion of appropriate substrate sequences, e.g., basic residues for trypsin. Screening and optimization of tabula rasa bait regions incorporating matrix metalloprotease 2 (MMP2) substrate sequences produced an A2M that was specifically cleaved by MMPs and inhibited MMP2 cleavage activity as efficiently as wild-type A2M. We propose that this approach can be used to develop A2M-based protease inhibitors, which selectively inhibit target proteases, which might be applied toward the clinical inhibition of dysregulated proteolysis as occurs in arthritis and many types of cancer.

TidsskriftThe Journal of Biological Chemistry
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2021

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