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Chem Biol. 2005 Jan;12(1):65-76.

Specificity and affinity of natural product cyclopentapeptide inhibitors against A. fumigatus, human, and bacterial chitinases.

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Division of Biological Chemistry & Molecular Microbiology, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 5EH, Scotland.


Family 18 chitinases play key roles in organisms ranging from bacteria to man. There is a need for specific, potent inhibitors to probe the function of these chitinases in different organisms. Such molecules could also provide leads for the development of chemotherapeuticals with fungicidal, insecticidal, or anti-inflammatory potential. Recently, two natural product peptides, argifin and argadin, have been characterized, which structurally mimic chitinase-chitooligosaccharide interactions and inhibit a bacterial chitinase in the nM-mM range. Here, we show that these inhibitors also act on human and Aspergillus fumigatus chitinases. The structures of these enzymes in complex with argifin and argadin, together with mutagenesis, fluorescence, and enzymology, reveal that subtle changes in the binding site dramatically affect affinity and selectivity. The data show that it may be possible to develop specific chitinase inhibitors based on the argifin/argadin scaffolds.

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