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Biochem J. 2003 Oct 15;375(Pt 2):307-12.

Probing cathepsin K activity with a selective substrate spanning its active site.

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  • 1INSERM EMI-U 00-10 Protéases et Vectorisation, Laboratoire d'Enzymologie et Chimie des Protéines, Faculté de Médecine, Université François Rabelais, 2 bis, Boulevard Tonnellé, F-37032 Tours Cedex, France.


The limited availability of highly selective cathepsin substrates seriously impairs studies designed to monitor individual cathepsin activities in biological samples. Among mammalian cysteine proteases, cathepsin K has a unique preference for a proline residue at P2, the primary determinant of its substrate specificity. Interestingly, congopain from Trypanosoma congolense also accommodates a proline residue in its S2 subsite. Analysis of a congopain model showed that amino acids forming its S2 subsite are identical with those of cathepsin K, except Leu67 which is replaced by a tyrosine residue in cathepsin K. Furthermore, amino acid residues of the congopain S2' binding pocket, which accepts a proline residue, are strictly identical with those of cathepsin K. Abz-HPGGPQ-EDN2ph [where Abz represents o-aminobenzoic acid and EDN2ph (=EDDnp) represents N -(2,4-dinitrophenyl)-ethylenediamine], a substrate initially developed for trypanosomal enzymes, was efficiently cleaved at the Gly-Gly bond by cathepsin K (kcat/ K(m)=426000 M(-1) x s(-1)). On the other hand, Abz-HPGGPQ-EDN2ph was resistant to hydrolysis by cathepsins B, F, H, L, S and V (20 nM enzyme concentration) and the Y67L (Tyr67-->Leu)/L205A cathepsin K mutant (20 nM), but still acted as a competitive inhibitor. Taken together, the selectivity of Abz-HPGGPQ-EDN2ph to cathepsin K primarily depends on the S2 and S2' subsite specificities of cathepsin K and the ionization state of histidine at P3. Whereas Abz-HPGGPQ-EDN2ph was hydrolysed by wild-type mouse fibroblast lysates, its hydrolysis was completely abolished in the cathepsin K-deficient samples, indicating that Abz-HPGGPQ-EDN2ph can be used to monitor selectively cathepsin K activity in physiological fluids and cell lysates.

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