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Eur J Biochem. 1992 Feb 15;204(1):371-9.

Characterisation of a cysteine protease from bloodstream forms of Trypanosoma congolense.

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International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases, Nairobi, Kenya.


A cysteine protease (trypanopain-Tc) with cathepsin-L-like properties has been purified from Trypanosoma congolense. The enzyme has an apparent molecular mass of 31-32 kDa by SDS/PAGE and 66 kDa by gel chromatography. It has a pI 7.4 and a high affinity for concanavalin A. Trypanopain-Tc catalyses the limited proteolysis of a variety of protein substrates such as fibrinogen, serum albumin and trypanosome variant-surface glycoprotein. It has minimal or no activity against casein or elastin. A variety of peptidyl amidomethylcoumarins and peptidyl diazomethanes were used to test the specificity of trypanopain-Tc. The better substrates had Arg or Lys in P1 and hydrophobic amino acids in P2 and P3. The best substrate found for trypanopain-Tc was Z-Phe-Arg-NHMec (Z, benzyloxycarbonyl; NHMec, 7-amido-4-methylcoumarin). The kinetic constants for the hydrolysis of Z-Phe-Arg-NHMec were kcat = 17.4 s-1, Km = 4.4 microM, kcat/Km = 4.0 microM-1.s-1, which are very similar to those of cathepsin L with this substrate. The specific substrates for cathepsin B (Z-Arg-Arg-NHMec) and cathepsin H (Arg-NHMec) were not hydrolysed by trypanopain-Tc under the conditions tested. The pH optimum of trypanopain-Tc against Z-Phe-Arg-NHMec was pH 6.0 but it showed a broad peak of activity extending well into the alkaline region. The enzyme was activated by low-molecular-mass thiol compounds and inhibited by cystatin, L-trans-epoxysuccinyl-4-guanidinobutane (E-64) and a variety of peptidyl diazomethanes. The most effective diazomethane inhibitors (Z-Leu-Leu-Met-CHN2, Z-Leu-Met-CHN2 and Z-Leu-Lys-CHN2, were inhibitory at nanomolar concentrations and were trypanocidal in vitro after 24-48 h incubation in greater than or equal to 20 microM [inhibitor]. However, it is not clear whether the trypanocidal activity of these inhibitors is a consequence of the inhibition of trypanopains or of some other essential proteolytic activities within the parasites.

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