Cysteinyl proteinases and their selective inactivation

Adv Enzymol Relat Areas Mol Biol. 1990;63:271-347. doi: 10.1002/9780470123096.ch5.


The affinity-labeling of cysteinyl proteinases may now be carried out with a number of peptide-derived reagents with selectivity, particularly for reactions carried out in vitro. These reagents have been described with emphasis on their selectivity for cysteine proteinases and lack of action on serine proteinases, the most likely source of side reactions among proteinases. Perhaps a crucial feature of this selectivity is an enzyme-promoted activation due to initial formation of a hemiketal, which may destabilize the reagent. Prominent among the reagent types that have this class selectivity are the peptidyl diazomethyl ketones, the acyloxymethyl ketones, the peptidylmethyl sulfonium salts, and peptidyl oxides analogous to E-64. The need for specific inhibitors capable of inactivating the target enzyme in intact cells and animals is inevitably pushing the biochemical application of these inhibitors into more complex molecular environments where the possibilities of competing reactions are greatly increased. In dealing with the current state and potential developments for the in vivo use of affinity-labeling reagents of cysteine proteinases, the presently known variety of cysteinyl proteinases had to be considered. Therefore this chapter has, at the same time, attempted to survey these proteinases with respect to specificity and gene family. The continual discovery of new proteinases will increase the complexity of this picture. At present the lysosomal cysteine proteinases cathepsins B and L and the cytoplasmic calcium-dependent proteinases are reasonable goals for a fairly complete metabolic clarification. The ability of investigators to inactivate individual members of this family in vivo, possibly without complications due to concurrent inactivation of serine proteinases by improvements in reagent specificity, is increasing. Among the cysteine proteinases, at least those of the papain super family, hydrophobic interactions in the S2 and S3 subsites are important and some specificity has been achieved by taking advantage of topographical differences among members of this group. Some of this has probably involved surface differences removed from the regions involved in proteolytic action. The emerging cysteine proteinases include some which, in contrast to the papain family, have a pronounced specificity in S1 for the binding of basic side chains, familiar in the trypsin family of serine proteinases. At least a potential conflict with serine proteinases can be avoided by choice of a covalent bonding mechanism. The departing group region, has not been exploited. As a sole contributor to binding, this region may be rather limited as a source of specificity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affinity Labels
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / physiology*
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family


  • Affinity Labels
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases