Procarboxypeptidase A from the insect pest Helicoverpa armigera and its derived enzyme. Two forms with new functional properties

Eur J Biochem. 2003 Jul;270(14):3026-35. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1033.2003.03681.x.


Although there is a significant knowledge about mammalian metallocarboxypeptidases, the data available on this family of enzymes is very poor for invertebrate forms. Here we present the biochemical characterization of a metallocarboxypeptidase from the insect Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), a devastating pest spread in subtropical regions of Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. The zymogen of this carboxypeptidase (PCPAHa) has been expressed at high levels in a Pichia pastoris system and shown to display the characteristics of the enzyme purified from the insect midgut. The in vitro activation process of the proenzyme differs significantly from the mammalian ones. The lysine-specific endoprotease LysC activates PCPAHa four times more efficiently than trypsin, the general activating enzyme for all previously studied metalloprocarboxypeptidases. LysC and trypsin independently use two different activation targets and the presence of sugars in the vicinity of the LysC activation point affects the activation process, indicating a possible modulation of the activation mechanism. During the activation with LysC the prodomain is degraded, while the carboxypeptidase moiety remains intact except for a C-terminal octapeptide that is rapidly released. Interestingly, the sequence at the cleavage point for the release of the octapeptide is also found at the boundary between the activation peptide and the enzyme moieties. The active enzyme (CPAHa) is shown to have a very broad substrate specificity, as it appears to be the only known metallocarboxypeptidase capable of efficiently hydrolysing basic and aliphatic residues and, to a much lower extent, acidic residues. Two carboxypeptidase inhibitors, from potato and leech, were tested against CPAHa. The former, of vegetal origin, is the most efficient metallocarboxypeptidase inhibitor described so far, with a Ki in the pm range.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Carboxypeptidases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Carboxypeptidases / chemistry
  • Carboxypeptidases / genetics
  • Carboxypeptidases / metabolism*
  • Carboxypeptidases A
  • Computer Simulation
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Precursors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Enzyme Precursors / chemistry
  • Enzyme Precursors / genetics
  • Enzyme Precursors / metabolism*
  • Glycosylation
  • Kinetics
  • Lepidoptera / enzymology*
  • Metalloendopeptidases / pharmacology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Oligopeptides / genetics
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism
  • Pichia / genetics
  • Pichia / metabolism
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Serine Endopeptidases / pharmacology
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Precursors
  • Oligopeptides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Carboxypeptidases
  • Carboxypeptidases A
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • peptidyl-Lys metalloendopeptidase