Selective inhibition of the collagenolytic activity of human cathepsin K by altering its S2 subsite specificity

Biochemistry. 2002 Jul 2;41(26):8447-54. doi: 10.1021/bi025638x.


The primary specificity of papain-like cysteine proteases (family C1, clan CA) is determined by S2-P2 interactions. Despite the high amino acid sequence identities and structural similarities between cathepsins K and L, only cathepsin K is capable of cleaving interstitial collagens in their triple helical domains. To investigate this specificity, we have engineered the S2 pocket of human cathepsin K into a cathepsin L-like subsite. Using combinatorial fluorogenic substrate libraries, the P1-P4 substrate specificity of the cathepsin K variant, Tyr67Leu/Leu205Ala, was determined and compared with those of cathepsins K and L. The introduction of the double mutation into the S2 subsite of cathepsin K rendered the unique S2 binding preference of the protease for proline and leucine residues into a cathepsin L-like preference for bulky aromatic residues. Homology modeling and docking calculations supported the experimental findings. The cathepsin L-like S2 specificity of the mutant protein and the integrity of its catalytic site were confirmed by kinetic analysis of synthetic di- and tripeptide substrates as well as pH stability and pH activity profile studies. The loss of the ability to accept proline in the S2 binding pocket by the mutant protease completely abolished the collagenolytic activity of cathepsin K whereas its overall gelatinolytic activity remained unaffected. These results indicate that Tyr67 and Leu205 play a key role in the binding of proline residues in the S2 pocket of cathepsin K and are required for its unique collagenase activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Binding Sites
  • Cathepsin K
  • Cathepsin L
  • Cathepsins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cathepsins / chemistry
  • Cathepsins / metabolism*
  • Collagenases / metabolism*
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • DNA Primers
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Conformation
  • Substrate Specificity


  • DNA Primers
  • Cathepsins
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • CTSL protein, human
  • Cathepsin L
  • CTSK protein, human
  • Cathepsin K
  • Collagenases