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J Immunol. 2009 May 1;182(9):5770-7. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0900127.

Alpha 2-macroglobulin capture allows detection of mast cell chymase in serum and creates a reservoir of angiotensin II-generating activity.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Human chymase is a highly efficient angiotensin II-generating serine peptidase expressed by mast cells. When secreted from degranulating cells, it can interact with a variety of circulating antipeptidases, but is mostly captured by alpha(2)-macroglobulin, which sequesters peptidases in a cage-like structure that precludes interactions with large protein substrates and inhibitors, like serpins. The present work shows that alpha(2)-macroglobulin-bound chymase remains accessible to small substrates, including angiotensin I, with activity in serum that is stable with prolonged incubation. We used alpha(2)-macroglobulin capture to develop a sensitive, microtiter plate-based assay for serum chymase, assisted by a novel substrate synthesized based on results of combinatorial screening of peptide substrates. The substrate has low background hydrolysis in serum and is chymase-selective, with minimal cleavage by the chymotryptic peptidases cathepsin G and chymotrypsin. The assay detects activity in chymase-spiked serum with a threshold of approximately 1 pM (30 pg/ml), and reveals native chymase activity in serum of most subjects with systemic mastocytosis. alpha(2)-Macroglobulin-bound chymase generates angiotensin II in chymase-spiked serum, and it appears in native serum as chymostatin-inhibited activity, which can exceed activity of captopril-sensitive angiotensin-converting enzyme. These findings suggest that chymase bound to alpha(2)-macroglobulin is active, that the complex is an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor-resistant reservoir of angiotensin II-generating activity, and that alpha(2)-macroglobulin capture may be exploited in assessing systemic release of secreted peptidases.

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