Full or Partial Substitution of the Reactive Center Loop of α-1-Proteinase Inhibitor by that of Heparin Cofactor II: P1 Arg Is Required for Maximal Thrombin Inhibition
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The abundant plasma protein alpha(1)-proteinase inhibitor (alpha(1)-PI) physiologically inhibits neutrophil elastase (NE) and factor XIa and belongs to the serine protease inhibitor (serpin) protein superfamily. Inhibitory serpins possess a surface peptide domain called the reactive center loop (RCL), which contains the P1-P1' scissile peptide bond. Conversion of this bond in alpha(1)-PI from Met-Ser to Arg-Ser in alpha(1)-PI Pittsburgh (M358R) redirects alpha(1)-PI from inhibiting NE to inhibiting thrombin (IIa), activated protein C (APC), and other proteases. In contrast to either the wild-type or M358R alpha(1)-PI, heparin cofactor II (HCII) is a IIa-specific inhibitor with an atypical Leu-Ser reactive center. We examined the effects of replacement of all or part of the RCL of alpha(1)-PI with the corresponding parts of the HCII RCL on the activity and specificity of the resulting chimeric inhibitors. A series of 12 N-terminally His-tagged alpha(1)-PI proteins differing only in their RCL residues were expressed as soluble proteins in Escherichia coli. Substitution of the P16-P3' loop of alpha(1)-PI with that of HCII increased the low intrinsic antithrombin activity of alpha(1)-PI to near that of heparin-free HCII, while analogous substitution of the P2'-P3' dipeptide surpassed this level. However, gel-based complexing and quantitative kinetic assays showed that all mutant proteins inhibited thrombin at less than 2% of the rate of alpha(1)-PI (M358R) unless the P1 residue was also mutated to Arg. An alpha(1)-PI (P16-P3' HCII/M358R) variant was only 3-fold less active than M358R against IIa but 70-fold less active against APC. The reduction in anti-APC activity is desired in an antithrombotic agent, but the improvement in inhibitory profile came at the cost of a 3.5-fold increase in the stoichiometry of inhibition. Our results suggest that, while P1 Arg is essential for maximal antithrombin activity in engineered alpha(1)-PI proteins, substitution of the corresponding HCII residues can enhance thrombin specificity.
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