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J Biol Chem. 1998 Dec 4;273(49):32608-13.

Inhibition of human caspases by peptide-based and macromolecular inhibitors.

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Department of Enzymology, Merck Research Laboratories, Rahway, New Jersey 07065, USA.


Studies with peptide-based and macromolecular inhibitors of the caspase family of cysteine proteases have helped to define a central role for these enzymes in inflammation and mammalian apoptosis. A clear interpretation of these studies has been compromised by an incomplete understanding of the selectivity of these molecules. Here we describe the selectivity of several peptide-based inhibitors and the coxpox serpin CrmA against 10 human caspases. The peptide aldehydes that were examined (Ac-WEHD-CHO, Ac-DEVD-CHO, Ac-YVAD-CHO, t-butoxycarbonyl-IETD-CHO, and t-butoxycarbonyl-AEVD-CHO) included several that contain the optimal tetrapeptide recognition motif for various caspases. These aldehydes display a wide range of selectivities and potencies against these enzymes, with dissociation constants ranging from 75 pM to >10 microM. The halomethyl ketone benzyloxycarbonyl-VAD fluoromethyl ketone is a broad specificity irreversible caspase inhibitor, with second-order inactivation rates that range from 2.9 x 10(2) M-1 s-1 for caspase-2 to 2.8 x 10(5) M-1 s-1 for caspase-1. The results obtained with peptide-based inhibitors are in accord with those predicted from the substrate specificity studies described earlier. The cowpox serpin CrmA is a potent (Ki < 20 nM) and selective inhibitor of Group I caspases (caspase-1, -4, and -5) and most Group III caspases (caspase-8, -9, and -10), suggesting that this virus facilitates infection through inhibition of both apoptosis and the host inflammatory response.

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