The P 2′ residue is a key determinant of mesotrypsin specificity: Engineering a high-affinity inhibitor with anticancer activity

Moh'd A. Salameh, Alexei S. Soares, Alexandra Hockla, Derek C. Radisky, Evette S. Radisky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


PRSS3/mesotrypsin is an atypical isoform of trypsin, the upregulation of which has been implicated in promoting tumour progression. Mesotrypsin inhibitors could potentially provide valuable research tools and novel therapeutics, but small-molecule trypsin inhibitors have low affinity and little selectivity, whereas protein trypsin inhibitors bind poorly and are rapidly degraded by mesotrypsin. In the present study, we use mutagenesis of a mesotrypsin substrate, APPI (amyloid precursor protein Kunitz protease inhibitor domain), and of a poor mesotrypsin inhibitor, BPTI (bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor), to dissect mesotrypsin specificity at the key P 2′ position. We find that bulky and charged residues strongly disfavour binding, whereas acidic residues facilitate catalysis. Crystal structures of mesotrypsin complexes with BPTI variants provide structural insights into mesotrypsin specificity and inhibition. Through optimization of the P 1 and P 2′ residues of BPTI, we generate a stable high-affinity mesotrypsin inhibitor with an equilibrium binding constant K i of 5.9 nM, a >2000-fold improvement in affinity over native BPTI. Using this engineered inhibitor, we demonstrate the efficacy of pharmacological inhibition of mesotrypsin in assays of breast cancer cell malignant growth and pancreatic cancer cell invasion. Although further improvements in inhibitor selectivity will be important before clinical potential can be realized, the results of the present study support the feasibility of engineering protein protease inhibitors of mesotrypsin and highlight their therapeutic potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-105
Number of pages11
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 15 2011


  • Crystal structure
  • Drug discovery
  • Endopeptidase
  • Enzyme inhibition
  • Mesotrypsin
  • Protease inhibitor
  • Protein engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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