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Proteomics Clin Appl. 2009 Jul 1;3(7):810-820.

Activity-based mass spectrometric characterization of proteases and inhibitors in human saliva.

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Department of Periodontology and Oral Biology, Boston University, Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


Proteases present in oral fluid effectively modulate the structure and function of some salivary proteins and have been implicated in tissue destruction in oral disease. To identify the proteases operating in the oral environment, proteins in pooled whole saliva supernatant were separated by anion-exchange chromatography and individual fractions were analyzed for proteolytic activity by zymography using salivary histatins as the enzyme substrates. Protein bands displaying proteolytic activity were particularly prominent in the 50-75 kDa region. Individual bands were excised, in-gel trypsinized and subjected to LC/ESI-MS/MS. The data obtained were searched against human, oral microbial and protease databases. A total of 13 proteases were identified all of which were of mammalian origin. Proteases detected in multiple fractions with cleavage specificities toward arginine and lysine residues, were lactotransferrin, kallikrein-1, and human airway trypsin-like protease. Unexpectedly, ten protease inhibitors were co-identified suggesting they were associated with the proteases in the same fractions. The inhibitors found most frequently were alpha-2-macroglobulin-like protein 1, alpha-1-antitrypsin, and leukocyte elastase inhibitor. Regulation of oral fluid proteolysis is highly important given that an inbalance in such activities has been correlated to a variety of pathological conditions including oral cancer.

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