Versatile assays for high throughput screening for activators or inhibitors of intracellular proteases and their cellular regulators

PLoS One. 2009 Oct 30;4(10):e7655. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007655.


Background: Intracellular proteases constitute a class of promising drug discovery targets. Methods for high throughput screening against these targets are generally limited to in vitro biochemical assays that can suffer many technical limitations, as well as failing to capture the biological context of proteases within the cellular pathways that lead to their activation. METHODS #ENTITYSTARTX00026;

Findings: We describe here a versatile system for reconstituting protease activation networks in yeast and assaying the activity of these pathways using a cleavable transcription factor substrate in conjunction with reporter gene read-outs. The utility of these versatile assay components and their application for screening strategies was validated for all ten human Caspases, a family of intracellular proteases involved in cell death and inflammation, including implementation of assays for high throughput screening (HTS) of chemical libraries and functional screening of cDNA libraries. The versatility of the technology was also demonstrated for human autophagins, cysteine proteases involved in autophagy.

Conclusions: Altogether, the yeast-based systems described here for monitoring activity of ectopically expressed mammalian proteases provide a fascile platform for functional genomics and chemical library screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Caspase 8 / metabolism
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical / methods
  • Combinatorial Chemistry Techniques
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Gene Library
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Peptide Hydrolases / chemistry
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Peptide Library
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Small Molecule Libraries*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Peptide Library
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Caspase 8