Inhibitors of the subtilase-like pro-protein convertases (SPCs)

Curr Pharm Des. 2002;8(7):549-62. doi: 10.2174/1381612023395736.


Following protein biosynthesis, some of the most important cellular mechanisms that generate biological diversity are the enzymatically driven post-translational modifications that ultimately lead to the formation of bioactive molecules. Within the secretory pathway, a multitude of precursor proteins are thus modified resulting in hormones, neuropeptides, growth factors, receptors and even enzymes. These modifications include cleavage at specific sites through endo- or exo-peptidase action, amidation, glycosylation and sulfation. In recent years, an important family of these processing enzymes was discovered and characterized. The so-called proprotein convertases are the products of seven distinct genes and function as endopeptidases that cleave protein precursors C-terminal to basic residue sites. They are structurally related to the bacterial subtilisin family of enzymes and are thus referred to as the subtilisin-like proprotein convertases (SPCs). Many studies have examined the inhibition of this family of enzymes, through the search of endogenous inhibitors or through the development of peptidyl, non-peptidyl or protein inhibitors. Some potent inhibitors have been discovered or engineered. While it is certain that potent inhibitors could serve as important tools to further elucidate the specific functions of each SPC, it has also been suggested that such inhibitors may be developed into lead compounds that could have important therapeutic applications. This review examines the progress made in regards to endogenous and engineered inhibitors and evidence for possible uses as molecular tools or in therapeutic applications. It is noted that although important inhibitory potencies have often been reported, there is generally insufficient evidence to demonstrate high levels of specificity. It is thus suggested that an important short-term challenge before the field will be a better understanding of the catalytic specificity of each SPC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Design
  • Peptide Library
  • Protein Engineering
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Subtilisins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Subtilisins / chemistry


  • Peptide Library
  • Protein Precursors
  • Subtilisins