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Biochem J. 1999 Sep 15;342 Pt 3:655-65.

Caspase-1 (interleukin-1beta-converting enzyme) is inhibited by the human serpin analogue proteinase inhibitor 9.

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  • 1Mitotix Inc., One Kendall Square, Bldg. 600, Cambridge MA 02139, USA.


The regulation of caspases, cysteine proteinases that cleave their substrates after aspartic residues, is poorly understood, even though they are involved in tightly regulated cellular processes. The recently discovered serpin analogue proteinase inhibitor 9 (PI9) is unique among human serpin analogues in that it has an acidic residue in the putative specificity-determining position of the reactive-site loop. We measured the ability of PI9 to inhibit the amidolytic activity of several caspases. The hydrolysis of peptide substrates by caspase-1 (interleukin-1beta-converting enzyme), caspase-4 and caspase-8 is inhibited by PI9 in a time-dependent manner. The rate of reaction of caspase-1 with PI9, as well as the rate of substrate hydrolysis of the initial caspase-PI9 complex, shows a hyperbolic dependence on the concentration of PI9, indicative of a two-step kinetic mechanism for inhibition with an apparent second-order rate constant of 7x10(2) M(-1).s(-1). The hydrolysis of a tetrapeptide substrate by caspase-3 is not inhibited by PI9. The complexes of caspase-1 and caspase-4 with PI9 can be immunoprecipitated but no complex with caspase-3 can be detected. No complex can be immunoprecipitated if the active site of the caspase is blocked with a covalent inhibitor. These results show that PI9 is an inhibitor of caspase-1 and to a smaller extent caspase-4 and caspase-8, but not of the more distantly related caspase-3. PI9 is the first example of a human serpin analogue that inhibits members of this class of cysteine proteinases.

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