Biochemical Journal

Research article

Probing the specificity of cysteine proteinases at subsites remote from the active site: analysis of P4, P3, P2′ and P3′ variations in extended substrates

Fernada C. Vieira PORTARO, Ana Beatriz F. SANTOS, Maria Helena S. CEZARI, Maria Aparecida JULIANO, Luiz JULIANO, Euridice CARMONA


We have determined the kinetic parameters for the hydrolysis by papain, cathepsin B and cathepsin L of internally quenched fluorescent peptides derived from the lead peptides Abz-AAFRSAQ-EDDnp [in which Abz and EDDnp stand for o-aminobenzoic acid and N-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)ethylenediamine respectively], to map the specificity of S4 and S3 subsites, and Abz-AFRSAAQ-EDDnp, to identify the specificity of S2ʹ and S3ʹ. Abz and EDDnp were the fluorescent quencher pair. These two series of peptides were cleaved at the Arg-Ser bond and systematic modifications at P4, P3, P2ʹ and P3ʹ were made. The S4 to S2ʹ subsites had a significant influence on the hydrolytic efficiencies of the three enzymes. Only papain activity was observed to be dependent on S3ʹ, indicating that its binding site is larger than those of cathepsins B and L. Hydrophobic amino acids were accepted at S4, S3, S2ʹ and S3ʹ of the three enzymes. The best substrates for cathepsins L and B had Trp and Asn at P2ʹ respectively; variations at this position were less accepted by these enzymes. The best substrates for papain were peptides containing Trp, Tyr or Asn at P3ʹ. Basic residues at P3 and P4 were well accepted by cathepsin L and papain. We also explored the susceptibility of substrates Abz-AFRSXAQ-EDDnp, modified at P2ʹ (X), to human cathepsin B mutants from which one or two occluding loop contacts had been removed. The modifications at His111 (H111A) and His110 (H110A) of cathepsin B led to an increase in kcat values of one or two orders of magnitude. The hydrolytic efficiencies of these cathepsin B mutants became closer to those of papain or cathepsin L.

  • cathepsins B and L
  • fluorogenic peptide
  • limited proteolysis
  • papain
  • protease substrate