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1.  A cysteine protease encoded by the baculovirus Bombyx mori nuclear polyhedrosis virus. 
Journal of Virology  1994;68(10):6619-6625.
Sequence analysis of the BamHI F fragment of the genome of Bombyx mori nuclear polyhedrosis virus (BmNPV) revealed an open reading frame whose deduced amino acid sequence had homology to those of cysteine proteases of the papain superfamily. The putative cysteine protease sequence (BmNPV-CP) was 323 amino acids long and showed 35% identity to a cysteine proteinase precursor from Trypanosoma brucei. Of 36 residues conserved among cathepsins B, H, L, and S and papain, 31 were identical in BmNPV-CP. In order to determine the activity and function of the putative cysteine protease, a BmNPV mutant (BmCysPD) was constructed by homologous recombination of the protease gene with a beta-galactosidase gene cassette. BmCysPD-infected BmN cell extracts were significantly reduced in acid protease activity compared with wild-type virus-infected cell extracts. The cysteine protease inhibitor E-64 [trans-epoxysuccinylleucylamido-(4-guanidino)butane] inhibited wild-type virus-expressed protease activity. Deletion of the cysteine protease gene had no significant effect on viral growth or polyhedron production in BmN cells, indicating that the cysteine protease was not essential for viral replication in vitro. However, B. mori larvae infected with BmCysPD showed symptoms different from those of wild-type BmNPV-infected larvae, e.g., less degradation of the body, including fat body cells, white body surface color due presumably to undegraded epidermal cells, and an increase in the number of polyhedra released into the hemolymph. This is the first report of (i) a virus-encoded protease with activity on general substrates and (ii) evidence that a virus-encoded protease may play a role in degradation of infected larvae to facilitate horizontal transmission of the virus.
PMCID: PMC237082  PMID: 8083997
2.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction studies of the cysteine protease ervatamin A from Ervatamia coronaria  
Ervatamin A is a papain-family cysteine protease with high activity and stability. It has been isolated and purified from the latex of the medicinal flowering plant E. coronaria and crystallized by the vapour-diffusion technique. Crystals diffracted to 2.1 Å and the structure was solved by molecular replacement.
The ervatamins are highly stable cysteine proteases that are present in the latex of the medicinal plant Ervatamia coronaria and belong to the papain family, members of which share similar amino-acid sequences and also a similar fold comprising two domains. Ervatamin A from this family, a highly active protease compared with others from the same source, has been purified to homogeneity by ion-exchange chromatography and crystallized by the vapour-diffusion method. Needle-shaped crystals of ervatamin A diffract to 2.1 Å resolution and belong to space group C2221, with unit-cell parameters a = 31.10, b = 144.17, c = 108.61 Å. The solvent content using an ervatamin A molecular weight of 27.6 kDa is 43.9%, with a V M value of 2.19 Å3 Da−1 assuming one protein molecule in the asymmetric unit. A molecular-replacement solution has been found using the structure of ervatamin C as a search model.
PMCID: PMC1952322  PMID: 16511096
ervatamins; cysteine proteases; papain family
3.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of a protease inhibitor from the latex of Carica papaya  
The Kunitz-type trypsin/chymotrypsin inhibitor isolated from C. papaya latex has been crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. Two different crystal forms are observed, diffracting to 2.6 and 1.7 Å.
A Kunitz-type protease inhibitor purified from the latex of green papaya (Carica papaya) fruits was crystallized in the presence and absence of divalent metal ions. Crystal form I, which is devoid of divalent cations, diffracts to a resolution of 2.6 Å and belongs to space group P31 or P32. This crystal form is a merohedral twin with two molecules in the asymmetric unit and unit-cell parameters a = b = 74.70, c = 78.97 Å. Crystal form II, which was grown in the presence of Co2+, diffracts to a resolution of 1.7 Å and belongs to space group P212121, with unit-cell parameters a = 44.26, b = 81.99, c = 140.89 Å.
PMCID: PMC2225369  PMID: 17142906
protease inhibitors; detwinning
4.  Label-free quantitative proteomics reveals differentially regulated proteins in the latex of sticky diseased Carica papaya L. plants 
Journal of Proteomics  2012;75(11):3191-3198.
Papaya meleira virus (PMeV) is so far the only described laticifer-infecting virus, the causal agent of papaya (Carica papaya L.) sticky disease. The effects of PMeV on the laticifers’ regulatory network were addressed here through the proteomic analysis of papaya latex. Using both 1-DE- and 1D-LC-ESI-MS/MS, 160 unique papaya latex proteins were identified, representing 122 new proteins in the latex of this plant. Quantitative analysis by normalized spectral counting revealed 10 down-regulated proteins in the latex of diseased plants, 9 cysteine proteases (chymopapain) and 1 latex serine proteinase inhibitor. A repression of papaya latex proteolytic activity during PMeV infection was hypothesized. This was further confirmed by enzymatic assays that showed a reduction of cysteine-protease-associated proteolytic activity in the diseased papaya latex. These findings are discussed in the context of plant responses against pathogens and may greatly contribute to understand the roles of laticifers in plant stress responses.
PMCID: PMC3381983  PMID: 22465191
Carica papaya; Label-free quantitative proteomics; Latex; Mass spectrometry; Plant proteomics
5.  Design, Synthesis, Evaluation and Thermodynamics of 1-Substituted Pyridylimidazo[1,5-a]Pyridine Derivatives as Cysteine Protease Inhibitors 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69982.
Targeting papain family cysteine proteases is one of the novel strategies in the development of chemotherapy for a number of diseases. Novel cysteine protease inhibitors derived from 1-pyridylimidazo[1,5-a]pyridine representing pharmacologically important class of compounds are being reported here for the first time. The derivatives were initially designed and screened in silico by molecular docking studies against papain to explore the possible mode of action. The molecular interaction between the compounds and cysteine protease (papain) was found to be very similar to the interactions observed with the respective epoxide inhibitor (E-64c) of papain. Subsequently, compounds were synthesized to validate their efficacy in wet lab experiments. When characterized kinetically, these compounds show their Ki and IC50 values in the range of 13.75 to 99.30 µM and 13.40 to 96.50 µM, respectively. The thermodynamics studies suggest their binding with papain hydrophobically and entropically driven. These inhibitors also inhibit the growth of clinically important different types of Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria having MIC50 values in the range of 0.6–1.4 µg/ml. Based on Lipinski’s rule of Five, we also propose these compounds as potent antibacterial prodrugs. The most active antibacterial compound was found to be 1-(2-pyridyl)-3-(2-hydroxyphenyl)imidazo[1,5-a]pyridine (3a).
PMCID: PMC3734177  PMID: 23940536
6.  Cross-Talk between Malarial Cysteine Proteases and Falstatin: The BC Loop as a Hot-Spot Target 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93008.
Cysteine proteases play a crucial role in the development of the human malaria parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. Our earlier studies demonstrated that these enzymes are equipped with specific domains for defined functions and further suggested the mechanism of activation of cysteine proteases. The activities of these proteases are regulated by a new class of endogenous inhibitors of cysteine proteases (ICPs). Structural studies of the ICPs of Trypanosoma cruzi (chagasin) and Plasmodium berghei (PbICP) indicated that three loops (termed BC, DE, and FG) are crucial for binding to target proteases. Falstatin, an ICP of P. falciparum, appears to play a crucial role in invasion of erythrocytes and hepatocytes. However, the mechanism of inhibition of cysteine proteases by falstatin has not been established. Our study suggests that falstatin is the first known ICP to function as a multimeric protein. Using site-directed mutagenesis, hemoglobin hydrolysis assays and peptide inhibition studies, we demonstrate that the BC loop, but not the DE or FG loops, inhibits cysteine proteases of P. falciparum and P. vivax via hydrogen bonds. These results suggest that the BC loop of falstatin acts as a hot-spot target for inhibiting malarial cysteine proteases. This finding suggests new strategies for the development of anti-malarial agents based on protease-inhibitor interactions.
PMCID: PMC3974720  PMID: 24699522
7.  Identification and Optimization of Inhibitors of Trypanosomal Cysteine Proteases: Cruzain, Rhodesain, and TbCatB 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;53(1):52-60.
Trypanosoma cruzi and Trypanosoma brucei are parasites that cause Chagas’ disease and African sleeping sickness, respectively. Both parasites rely on essential cysteine proteases for survival, cruzain for T. cruzi and TbCatB/rhodesain for T. brucei. A recent quantitative high-throughput screen of cruzain identified triazine nitriles, which are known inhibitors of other cysteine proteases, as reversible inhibitors of the enzyme. Structural modifications detailed herein, including core scaffold modification from triazine to purine, improved the in vitro potency against both cruzain and rhodesain by 350-fold, while also gaining activity against T. brucei parasites. Selected compounds were screened against a panel of human cysteine and serine proteases to determine selectivity, and a co-crystal was obtained of our most potent analog bound to Cruzain.
PMCID: PMC2804034  PMID: 19908842
8.  Crystal Structures of TbCatB and Rhodesain, Potential Chemotherapeutic Targets and Major Cysteine Proteases of Trypanosoma brucei 
Trypanosoma brucei is the etiological agent of Human African Trypanosomiasis, an endemic parasitic disease of sub-Saharan Africa. TbCatB and rhodesain are the sole Clan CA papain-like cysteine proteases produced by the parasite during infection of the mammalian host and are implicated in the progression of disease. Of considerable interest is the exploration of these two enzymes as targets for cysteine protease inhibitors that are effective against T. brucei.
Methods and Findings
We have determined, by X-ray crystallography, the first reported structure of TbCatB in complex with the cathepsin B selective inhibitor CA074. In addition we report the structure of rhodesain in complex with the vinyl-sulfone K11002.
The mature domain of our TbCat•CA074 structure contains unique features for a cathepsin B-like enzyme including an elongated N-terminus extending 16 residues past the predicted maturation cleavage site. N-terminal Edman sequencing reveals an even longer extension than is observed amongst the ordered portions of the crystal structure. The TbCat•CA074 structure confirms that the occluding loop, which is an essential part of the substrate-binding site, creates a larger prime side pocket in the active site cleft than is found in mammalian cathepsin B-small molecule structures. Our data further highlight enhanced flexibility in the occluding loop main chain and structural deviations from mammalian cathepsin B enzymes that may affect activity and inhibitor design. Comparisons with the rhodesain•K11002 structure highlight key differences that may impact the design of cysteine protease inhibitors as anti-trypanosomal drugs.
Author Summary
Proteases are ubiquitous in all forms of life and catalyze the enzymatic degradation of proteins. These enzymes regulate and coordinate a vast number of cellular processes and are therefore essential to many organisms. While serine proteases dominate in mammals, parasitic organisms commonly rely on cysteine proteases of the Clan CA family throughout their lifecycle. Clan CA cysteine proteases are therefore regarded as promising targets for the selective design of drugs to treat parasitic diseases, such as Human African Trypanosomiasis caused by Trypanosoma brucei. The genomes of kinetoplastids such as Trypanosoma spp. and Leishmania spp. encode two Clan CA C1 family cysteine proteases and in T. brucei these are represented by rhodesain and TbCatB. We have determined three-dimensional structures of these two enzymes as part of our ongoing efforts to synthesize more effective anti-trypanosomal drugs.
PMCID: PMC2882330  PMID: 20544024
9.  A Parasite Cysteine Protease Is Key to Host Protein Degradation and Iron Acquisition*S⃞ 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2008;283(43):28934-28943.
Cysteine proteases of the Clan CA (papain) family are the predominant protease group in primitive invertebrates. Cysteine protease inhibitors arrest infection by the protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma brucei. RNA interference studies implicated a cathepsin B-like protease, tbcatB, as a key inhibitor target. Utilizing parasites in which one of the two alleles of tbcatb has been deleted, the key role of this protease in degradation of endocytosed host proteins is delineated. TbcatB deficiency results in a decreased growth rate and dysmorphism of the flagellar pocket and the subjacent endocytic compartment. Western blot and microscopic analysis indicate that deficiency in tbcatB results in accumulation of both host and parasite proteins, including the lysosomal marker p67. A critical function for parasitism is the degradation of host transferrin, which is necessary for iron acquisition. Substrate specificity analysis of recombinant tbcatB revealed the optimal peptide cleavage sequences for the enzyme and these were confirmed experimentally using FRET-based substrates. Degradation of transferrin was validated by SDS-PAGE and the specific cleavage sites identified by N-terminal sequencing. Because even a modest deficiency in tbcatB is lethal for the parasite, tbcatB is a logical target for the development of new anti-trypanosomal chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2570886  PMID: 18701454
10.  Novel non-peptidic vinylsulfones targeting the S2 and S3 subsites of parasite cysteine proteases 
We describe here the identification of non-peptidic vinylsulfones that inhibit parasite cysteine proteases in vitro and inhibit the growth of T. brucei brucei parasites in culture. A high resolution (1.75Å) co-crystal structure of 8a bound to cruzain reveals how the non-peptidic P2/P3 moiety in such analogs bind the S2 and S3 subsites of the protease, effectively recapitulating important binding interactions present in more traditional peptide-based protease inhibitors and natural substrates.
PMCID: PMC3760505  PMID: 19773167
11.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of CMS1MS2: a cysteine proteinase from Carica candamarcensis latex 
CMS1MS2, a cysteine proteinase from C. candamarcensis, displays high amidase activity against the substrate BAPNA. The enzyme was purified and crystallized by the hanging-drop method and preliminary diffraction data were collected to 1.8 Å resolution.
Cysteine proteinases from the latex of plants of the family Caricaceae are widely used industrially as well as in pharmaceutical preparations. In the present work, a 23 kDa cysteine proteinase from Carica candamarcensis latex (designated CMS1MS2) was purified for crystallization using three chromatography steps. The enzyme shows about fourfold higher activity than papain with BAPNA as substrate. Crystals suitable for X-ray diffraction experiments were obtained by the hanging-drop method in the presence of PEG and ammonium sulfate as precipitants. The crystals are monoclinic (space group P21), with unit-cell parameters a = 53.26, b = 75.71, c = 53.23 Å, β = 96.81°, and diffract X-rays to 1.8 Å resolution.
PMCID: PMC2496862  PMID: 18540057
Carica candamarcensis; Caricaceae; cysteine proteinases
12.  Mapping Inhibitor Binding Modes on an Active Cysteine Protease via NMR Spectroscopy 
Biochemistry  2012;51(50):10087-10098.
Cruzain is a member of the papain/cathepsin-L family of cysteine proteases, and the major cysteine protease of the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas’ disease. We report an auto-induction methodology that provides soluble-cruzain at high yields (> 30 mg per liter in minimal media). These increased yields provide sufficient quantities of active enzyme for use in NMR-based ligand mapping. Using CD and NMR spectroscopy, we also examined the solution-state structural dynamics of the enzyme in complex with a covalently bound vinyl sulfone inhibitor (K777). We report the backbone amide and side chain carbon chemical shift assignments of cruzain in complex with K777. These resonance assignments were used to identify and map residues located in the substrate binding pocket, including the catalytic Cys25 and His162. Selective 15N-Cys, 15N-His, and 13C-Met labeling was performed to quickly assess cruzain-ligand interactions for a set of eight low molecular weight compounds exhibiting micromolar binding or inhibition. Chemical shift perturbation mapping verifies that six of the eight compounds bind to cruzain at the active site. Three different binding modes were delineated for the compounds, namely covalent, non-covalent, and non-interacting. These results provide examples of how NMR spectroscopy can be used to screen compounds for fast evaluation of enzyme-inhibitor interactions in order to facilitate lead compound identification and subsequent structural studies.
PMCID: PMC3566641  PMID: 23181936
13.  The macromolecular complex of ICP and falcipain-2 from Plasmodium: preparation, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis 
The macromolecular complex of ICP (inhibitor of cysteine proteases) from P. berghei and falcipain-2 from P. falciparum has been prepared and crystallized, and a diffraction data set has been collected to a resolution of 2.6 Å.
The malaria parasite Plasmodium depends on the tight control of cysteine-protease activity throughout its life cycle. Recently, the characterization of a new class of potent inhibitors of cysteine proteases (ICPs) secreted by Plasmodium has been reported. Here, the recombinant production, purification and crystallization of the inhibitory C-terminal domain of ICP from P. berghei in complex with the P. falciparum haemoglobinase falcipain-2 is described. The 1:1 complex was crystallized in space group P43, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 71.15, c = 120.09 Å. A complete diffraction data set was collected to a resolution of 2.6 Å.
PMCID: PMC3212462  PMID: 22102243
malaria; inhibitor of cysteine proteases; ICP; falcipain; chagasin
14.  Binary Combination of Carica papaya, Areca catechu and Myristica fragrans with Piperonyl Butoxide / MGK-264 against Freshwater Snail Lymnaea acuminata 
Piperonyl butoxide (PB) and MGK-264 were used to enhance the toxicity of the active components papain, arecoline and myristicin from the plants Carica papaya, Areca catechu and Myristica fragrans, respectively, against the vector snail Lymnaea acuminata. A time- and dose-dependent relationship was observed for the toxicity of these combinations. The toxic effects of these plant-derived molluscicides in combination with the synergists PB and MGK-264 were several times higher than the effect of the individual treatments. The highest degree of synergism was observed when MGK-264 was used in combination with C. papaya latex (10.47-fold increase) and PB was used with papain (8.35-fold increase).
PMCID: PMC3935376  PMID: 24575245
Fascioliasis; Lymnaea acuminata; Plant Molluscicide; Piperonyl Butoxide; MGK-264
15.  Partial Purification and Characterization of a Cysteine Protease Inhibitor from the Plerocercoid of Spirometra erinacei 
Helminthic cysteine proteases are well known to play critical roles in tissue invasion, nutrient uptake, and immune evasion of the parasites. In the same manner, the sparganum, the plerocercoid of Spirometra mansoni, is also known to secrete a large amount of cysteine proteases. However, cysteine protease inhibitors regulating the proteolytic activities of the cysteine protease are poorly illustrated. In this regard, we partially purified an endogenous cysteine protease inhibitor from spargana and characterized its biochemical properties. The cysteine protease inhibitor was purified by sequential chromatographies using Resource Q anion exchanger and Superdex 200 HR gel filtration from crude extracts of spargana. The molecular weight of the purified protein was estimated to be about 11 kD on SDS-PAGE. It was able to inhibit papain and 27 kDa cysteine protease of spargana with the ratio of 25.7% and 49.1%, respectively, while did not inhibit chymotrypsin. This finding suggests that the cysteine protease inhibitor of spargana may be involved in regulation of endogenous cysteine proteases of the parasite, rather than interact with cysteine proteases from their hosts.
PMCID: PMC2553344  PMID: 18830060
Spirometra mansoni; plerocercoid; sparganum; cysteine protease; inhibitor
16.  The impact of whole genome sequence data on drug discovery--a malaria case study. 
Molecular Medicine  2001;7(10):698-710.
BACKGROUND: Identification and validation of a drug discovery target is a prominent step in drug development. In the post-genomic era it is possible to reevaluate the association of a gene with a specific biological function to see if a homologous gene can subsume this role. This concept has special relevance to drug discovery in human infectious diseases, like malaria. A trophozoite cysteine protease (falcipain-1) from the papain family, thought to be responsible for the degradation of erythrocyte hemoglobin, has been considered a promising target for drug discovery efforts owing to the antimalarial activity of peptide based covalent cysteine protease inhibitors. This led to the development of non-peptidic non-covalent inhibitors of falcipain-1 and their characterization as antimalarials. It is now clear from sequencing efforts that the malaria genome contains more than one cysteine protease and that falcipain-1 is not the most important contributor to hemoglobin degradation. Rather, falcipain-2 and falcipain-3 appear to account for the majority of cysteine hemoglobinase activity in the plasmodium trophozoite. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We have modeled the falcipain-2 cysteine protease from one of the major human malaria species, Plasmodium falciparum and compared it to our original work on falcipain-1. As with falcipain-1, computa-tional screening of the falcipain-2 active site was conducted using DOCK. Using structural superpositions within the protease family and evolutionary analysis of substrate specificity sites, we focused on the commonalities and the protein specific features to direct our drug discovery effort. RESULTS: Since 1993, the size of the Available Chemicals Directory had increased from 55313 to 195419 unique chemical structures. For falcipain-2, eight inhibitors were identified with IC50's against the enzyme between 1 and 7 microM. Application of three of these inhibitors to infected erythrocytes cured malaria in culture, but parasite death did not correlate with food vacuole abnormalities associated with the activity of mechanistic inhibitors of cysteine proteases like the epoxide E64. CONCLUSIONS: Using plasmodial falcipain proteases, we show how a protein family perspective can influence target discovery and inhibitor design. We suspect that parallel drug discovery programs where a family of targets is considered, rather than serial programs built on a single therapeutic focus, will become the dominant industrial paradigm. Economies of scale in assay development and in compound synthesis are expected owing to the functional and structural features of individual family members. One of the remaining challenges in post-genomic drug discovery is that inhibitors of one target are likely to show some activity against other family members. This lack of specificity may lead to difficulties in functional assignments and target validation as well as a complex side effect profile.
PMCID: PMC1949995  PMID: 11713369
17.  New Tetromycin Derivatives with Anti-Trypanosomal and Protease Inhibitory Activities † 
Marine Drugs  2011;9(10):1682-1697.
Four new tetromycin derivatives, tetromycins 1–4 and a previously known one, tetromycin B (5) were isolated from Streptomyces axinellae Pol001T cultivated from the Mediterranean sponge Axinella polypoides. Structures were assigned using extensive 1D and 2D NMR spectroscopy as well as HRESIMS analysis. The compounds were tested for antiparasitic activities against Leishmania major and Trypanosoma brucei, and for protease inhibition against several cysteine proteases such as falcipain, rhodesain, cathepsin L, cathepsin B, and viral proteases SARS-CoV Mpro, and PLpro. The compounds showed antiparasitic activities against T. brucei and time-dependent inhibition of cathepsin L-like proteases with Ki values in the low micromolar range.
PMCID: PMC3210601  PMID: 22072992
tetromycin; anti-trypanosomal; protease inhibition; Streptomyces axinellae; marine sponge
18.  Challenging a Paradigm: Theoretical Calculations of the Protonation State of the Cys25-His159 Catalytic Diad in Free Papain 
Proteins  2009;77(4):916-926.
A central mechanistic paradigm of cysteine proteases is that the His – Cys catalytic diad forms an ion-pair NH(+)/S(−) already in the catalytically active free enzyme. Most molecular modeling studies of cysteine proteases refer to this paradigm as their starting point. Nevertheless, several recent kinetics and X-ray crystallography studies of viral and bacterial cysteine proteases depart from the ion-pair mechanism, suggesting general base catalysis. We challenge the postulate of the ion-pair formation in free papain. Applying our QM/SCRF(VS) molecular modeling approach, we analyzed all protonation states of the catalytic diad in free papain and its SMe derivative, comparing the predicted and experimental pKa data. We conclude that the His – Cys catalytic diad in free papain is fully protonated, NH(+)/SH. The experimental pKa=8.62 of His159 imidazole in free papain, obtained by NMR controlled titratin and originally interpreated as the NH(+)/S(−) ⇌ N/S(−) equilibrium, is now assigned to the NH(+)/SH ⇌ N/SH equilibrium.
PMCID: PMC2767454  PMID: 19688822
cysteine proteases; enzyme mechanism; solvation; pKa in proteins; molecular modeling; quantum mechanics
19.  cDNA Cloning and Molecular Modeling of Procerain B, a Novel Cysteine Endopeptidase Isolated from Calotropis procera 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59806.
Procerain B, a novel cysteine protease (endopeptidase) isolated from Calotropis procera belongs to Asclepiadaceae family. Purification of the enzyme, biochemical characterization and potential applications are already published by our group. Here, we report cDNA cloning, complete amino acid sequencing and molecular modeling of procerain B. The derived amino acid sequence showed high sequence homology with other papain like plant cysteine proteases of peptidase C1A superfamily. The three dimensional structure of active procerain B was modeled by homology modeling using X-ray crystal structure of actinidin (PDB ID: 3P5U), a cysteine protease from the fruits of Actinidia arguta. The structural aspect of the enzyme is also discussed.
PMCID: PMC3603856  PMID: 23527269
20.  Structure-Function of Falcipains: Malarial Cysteine Proteases 
Journal of Tropical Medicine  2012;2012:345195.
Evidence indicates that cysteine proteases play essential role in malaria parasites; therefore an obvious area of investigation is the inhibition of these enzymes to treat malaria. Studies with cysteine protease inhibitors and manipulating cysteine proteases genes have suggested a role for cysteine proteases in hemoglobin hydrolysis. The best characterized Plasmodium cysteine proteases are falcipains, which are papain family enzymes. Falcipain-2 and falcipain-3 are major hemoglobinases of P. falciparum. Structural and functional analysis of falcipains showed that they have unique domains including a refolding domain and a hemoglobin binding domain. Overall, the complexes of falcipain-2 and falcipain-3 with small and macromolecular inhibitors provide structural insight to facilitate the design or modification of effective drug treatment against malaria. Drug development targeting falcipains should be aided by a strong foundation of biochemical and structural studies.
PMCID: PMC3317066  PMID: 22529862
21.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction studies of the glutaminyl cyclase from Carica papaya latex 
The glutaminyl cyclase isolated from C. papaya latex has been crystallized using the hanging-drop method. Diffraction data have been collected at ESRF beamline BM14 and processed to 1.7 Å resolution.
In living systems, the intramolecular cyclization of N-terminal glutamine residues is accomplished by glutaminyl cyclase enzymes (EC While in mammals these enzymes are involved in the synthesis of hormonal and neurotransmitter peptides, the physiological role played by the corresponding plant enzymes still remains to be unravelled. Papaya glutaminyl cyclase (PQC), a 33 kDa enzyme found in the latex of the tropical tree Carica papaya, displays an exceptional resistance to chemical and thermal denaturation as well as to proteolysis. In order to elucidate its enzymatic mechanism and to gain insights into the structural determinants underlying its remarkable stability, PQC was isolated from papaya latex, purified and crystallized by the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. The crystals belong to the orthorhombic space group P212121, with unit-cell parameters a = 62.82, b = 81.23, c = 108.17 Å and two molecules per asymmetric unit. Diffraction data have been collected at ESRF beamline BM14 and processed to a resolution of 1.7 Å.
PMCID: PMC1952388  PMID: 16508091
glutaminyl cyclase
22.  Role of the Trypanosoma brucei natural cysteine peptidase inhibitor ICP in differentiation and virulence 
Molecular Microbiology  2007;66(4):991-1002.
ICP is a chagasin-family natural tight binding inhibitor of Clan CA, family C1 cysteine peptidases (CPs). We investigated the role of ICP in Trypanosoma brucei by generating bloodstream form ICP-deficient mutants (Δicp). A threefold increase in CP activity was detected in lysates of Δicp, which was restored to the levels in wild type parasites by re-expression of the gene in the null mutant. Δicp displayed slower growth in culture and increased resistance to a trypanocidal synthetic CP inhibitor. More efficient exchange of the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) to procyclin during differentiation from bloodstream to procyclic form was observed in Δicp, a phenotype that was reversed in the presence of synthetic CP inhibitors. Furthermore, we showed that degradation of anti-VSG IgG is abolished when parasites are pretreated with synthetic CP inhibitors, and that parasites lacking ICP degrade IgG more efficiently than wild type. In addition, Δicp reached higher parasitemia than wild type parasites in infected mice, suggesting that ICP modulates parasite infectivity. Taken together, these data suggest that CPs of T. brucei bloodstream form play a role in surface coat exchange during differentiation, in the degradation of internalized IgG and in parasite infectivity, and that their function is regulated by ICP.
PMCID: PMC2680270  PMID: 17944830
23.  Proteolytic Activation of the Essential Parasitophorous Vacuole Cysteine Protease SERA6 Accompanies Malaria Parasite Egress from Its Host Erythrocyte* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(45):37949-37963.
Background: Malaria parasite egress from host erythrocytes requires cysteine protease activity, but the identity of key parasite proteases is unknown.
Results: SERA6 is an essential parasite cysteine protease that resides in the parasitophorous vacuole and is activated by SUB1, a parasite serine protease.
Conclusion: SERA6 may play a role in egress.
Significance: SERA6 is a potential new antimalarial drug target.
The malaria parasite replicates within an intraerythrocytic parasitophorous vacuole (PV). The PV and host cell membranes eventually rupture, releasing merozoites in a process called egress. Certain inhibitors of serine and cysteine proteases block egress, indicating a crucial role for proteases. The Plasmodium falciparum genome encodes nine serine-repeat antigens (SERAs), each of which contains a central domain homologous to the papain-like (clan CA, family C1) protease family. SERA5 and SERA6 are indispensable in blood-stage parasites, but the function of neither is known. Here we show that SERA6 localizes to the PV where it is precisely cleaved just prior to egress by an essential serine protease called PfSUB1. Mutations that replace the predicted catalytic Cys of SERA6, or that block SERA6 processing by PfSUB1, could not be stably introduced into the parasite genomic sera6 locus, indicating that SERA6 is an essential enzyme and that processing is important for its function. We demonstrate that cleavage of SERA6 by PfSUB1 converts it to an active cysteine protease. Our observations reveal a proteolytic activation step in the malarial PV that may be required for release of the parasite from its host erythrocyte.
PMCID: PMC3488066  PMID: 22984267
Cysteine Protease; Malaria; Microbial Pathogenesis; Plasmodium; Serine Protease; SERA; SUB1; Egress
24.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of a family 19 glycosyl hydrolase from Carica papaya latex 
A chitinase isolated from the latex of the tropical species Carica papaya has been crystallized. The addition of N-acetyl-d-glucosamine to the crystallization solution has improved the diffraction quality resolution of the crystal to 1.8 Å resolution.
A chitinase isolated from the latex of the tropical species Carica papaya has been purified to homogeneity and crystallized. This enzyme belongs to glycosyl hydrolase family 19 and exhibits exceptional resistance to proteolysis. The initially observed crystals, which diffracted to a resolution of 2.0 Å, were improved through modification of the crystallization protocol. Well ordered crystals were subsequently obtained using N-acetyl-d-glucosamine, the mono­mer resulting from the hydrolysis of chitin, as an additive to the crystallization solution. Here, the characterization of a chitinase crystal that belongs to the monoclinic space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 69.08, b = 44.79, c = 76.73 Å, β = 95.33° and two molecules per asymmetric unit, is reported. Diffraction data were collected to a resolution of 1.8 Å. Structure refinement is currently in progress.
PMCID: PMC2376395  PMID: 18453704
Carica papaya; chitinases; family 19 glycosyl hydrolases
25.  Cysteine Protease Inhibitor (AcStefin) Is Required for Complete Cyst Formation of Acanthamoeba 
Eukaryotic Cell  2013;12(4):567-574.
The encystation of Acanthamoeba leads to the formation of resilient cysts from vegetative trophozoites. This process is essential for parasite survival under unfavorable conditions, such as those associated with starvation, low temperatures, and biocides. Furthermore, cysteine proteases have been implicated in the massive turnover of intracellular components required for encystation. Thus, strict modulation of the activities of cysteine proteases is required to protect Acanthamoeba from intracellular damage. However, mechanisms underlying the control of protease activity during encystation have not been established in Acanthamoeba. In the present study, we identified and characterized Acanthamoeba cysteine protease inhibitor (AcStefin), which was found to be highly expressed during encystation and to be associated with lysosomes by fluorescence microscopy. Recombinant AcStefin inhibited various cysteine proteases, including human cathepsin B, human cathepsin L, and papain. Transfection with small interfering RNA against AcStefin increased cysteine protease activity during encystation and resulted in incomplete cyst formation, reduced excystation efficiency, and a significant reduction in cytoplasmic area. Taken together, these results indicate that AcStefin is involved in the modulation of cysteine proteases and that it plays an essential role during the encystation of Acanthamoeba.
PMCID: PMC3623446  PMID: 23397569

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