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Biochemistry. 1995 Aug 22;34(33):10628-38.

Structural changes associated with the spontaneous inactivation of the serine proteinase human tryptase.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Human skin tryptase, a serine proteinase stored within mast cell secretory granules, rapidly loses enzymatic activity in solutions of physiological salt concentration, pH, and temperature. The inactivation of tryptase can be slowed and even reversed by addition of heparin, a highly sulfated glycosaminoglycan also found in the secretory granules. These properties may be relevant to tryptase regulation after secretion from mast cells. To further characterize the molecular changes underlying the functional instability of tryptase, circular dichroism (CD) and analytical ultracentrifugation were used to investigate structural changes during spontaneous inactivation. The CD spectra of active and spontaneously inactivated tryptase are different, particularly in the region around 230 nm where active tryptase displays a distinct negative peak. This peak is also observed in the CD spectrum of bovine chymotrypsin but not in trypsin, elastase, or chymotrypsinogen. Loss of activity resulting from spontaneous inactivation was accompanied by a diminution of the 230-nm signal. The kinetics for the signal loss appeared to be first-order and closely paralleled the rate of enzymatic activity loss. Dextran sulfate, a highly sulfated polysaccharide, was capable of reactivating tryptase and restoring the CD signal. After 2 h of decay (> 90% loss of activity), addition of dextran sulfate resulted in an almost immediate return of the CD signal to that of active tryptase. The return of the CD signal appeared to be more rapid than the return of enzymatic activity, thereby suggesting the presence of an unidentified step which is rate-limiting for activity return (and loss) and subsequent (prior) to the CD change accompanying activity loss. Ultracentrifugation analysis of tryptase showed a marked change in its association state upon inactivation. Sedimentation equilibrium under stabilizing conditions demonstrated the presence of a single species with the molecular weight of a tetramer. After spontaneous inactivation, a mixture of species was evident, which was characterized as monomers and tetramers in equilibrium. These results demonstrate that spontaneous inactivation of tryptase is associated with reversible conformational changes and that a consequence of inactivation is the formation of a destabilized tetrameric form. Although the molecular mechanism initiating these changes remains unclear, possible insights into the process are discussed on the basis of the similarity between the CD spectra of tryptase and chymotrypsin.

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