Proteasomes degrade most proteins in mammalian cells and are established targets of anticancer drugs. All eukaryotic proteasomes have three types of active sites: chymotrypsin-like, trypsin-like, and caspase-like. Chymotrypsin-like sites are the most important in protein degradation and are the primary target of most proteasome inhibitors. The biological roles of trypsin-like and caspase-like sites and their potential as cotargets of antineoplastic agents are not well defined. Here we describe the development of site-specific inhibitors and active-site probes of chymotrypsin-like and caspase-like sites. Using these compounds, we show that cytotoxicity of proteasome inhibitors does not correlate with inhibition of chymotrypsin-like sites and that coinhibition of either trypsin-like and/or caspase-like sites is needed to achieve maximal cytotoxicity. Thus, caspase-like and trypsin-like sites must be considered as cotargets of anticancer drugs.
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