de Veer, Simon J.; Wang, Conan K.; Harris, Jonathan M.; Craik, David J.; Swedberg, Joakim E.
Improving the Selectivity of Engineered Protease Inhibitors: Optimizing the P2 Prime Residue Using a Versatile Cyclic Peptide Library

Standard mechanism inhibitors are attractive design templates for engineering reversible serine protease inhibitors. When optimizing interactions between the inhibitor and target protease, many studies focus on the nonprimed segment of the inhibitor's binding loop (encompassing the contact beta-strand). However, there are currently few methods for screening residues on the primed segment. Here, we designed a synthetic inhibitor library (based on sunflower trypsin inhibitorI) for characterizing the P2' specificity of various serine proteases. Screening the library against 13 different proteases revealed unique P2' preferences for trypsin, ch-ymotrypsin, matriptase, plasmin, thrombin, four kallikrein-related peptidases, and several clotting factors. Using this information to modify existing engineered inhibitors yielded new variants that showed considerably improved selectivity, reaching up to 7000-fold selectivity over certain off-target proteases. Our study demonstrates the importance of the P2' residue in standard mechanism inhibition and unveils a new approach for screening P2' substitutions that will benefit future inhibitor engineering studies.


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