- In spite of the power of phage display technology to identify variant proteins with novel properties in large libraries, it has only been previously applied to one member of the serpin superfamily. Here we describe phage display of human alpha-1 proteinase inhibitor (API) in a T7 bacteriophage system. API M358R fused to the C-terminus of T7 capsid protein 10B was directly shown to form denaturation-resistant complexes with thrombin by electrophoresis and immunoblotting following exposure of intact phages to thrombin. We therefore developed a biopanning protocol in which thrombin-reactive phages were selected using biotinylated anti-thrombin antibodies and streptavidin-coated magnetic beads. A library consisting of displayed API randomized at residues 357 and 358 (P2-P1) yielded predominantly Pro-Arg at these positions after five rounds of thrombin selection; in contrast the same degree of mock selection yielded only non-functional variants. A more diverse library of API M358R randomized at residues 352-356 (P7-P3) was also probed, yielding numerous variants fitting a loose consensus of DLTVS as judged by sequencing of the inserts of plaque-purified phages. The thrombin-selected sequences were transferred en masse into bacterial expression plasmids, and lysates from individual colonies were screening for API-thrombin complexing. The most active candidates from this sixth round of screening contained DITMA and AAFVS at P7-P3 and inhibited thrombin 2.1-fold more rapidly than API M358R with no change in reaction stoichiometry. Deep sequencing using the Ion Torrent platform confirmed that over 800 sequences were significantly enriched in the thrombin-panned versus naïve phage display library, including some detected using the combined phage display/bacterial lysate screening approach. Our results show that API joins Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) as a serpin amenable to phage display and suggest the utility of this approach for the selection of "designer serpins" with novel reactivity and/or specificity.