All prokaryotic genes encoding putative serpins identified to date are found in environmental and commensal microorganisms, and only very few prokaryotic serpins have been investigated from a mechanistic standpoint. Herein, we characterized a novel serpin (miropin) from the human pathogen Tannerella forsythia, a bacterium implicated in initiation and progression of human periodontitis. In contrast to other serpins, miropin efficiently inhibited a broad range of proteases (neutrophil and pancreatic elastases, cathepsin G, subtilisin, and trypsin) with a stoichiometry of inhibition of around 3 and second-order association rate constants that ranged from 2.7 × 10(4) (cathepsin G) to 7.1 × 10(5) m(-1)s(-1) (subtilisin). Inhibition was associated with the formation of complexes that were stable during SDS-PAGE. The unusually broad specificity of miropin for target proteases is achieved through different active sites within the reactive center loop upstream of the P1-P1' site, which was predicted from an alignment of the primary structure of miropin with those of well studied human and prokaryotic serpins. Thus, miropin is unique among inhibitory serpins, and it has apparently evolved the ability to inhibit a multitude of proteases at the expense of a high stoichiometry of inhibition and a low association rate constant. These characteristics suggest that miropin arose as an adaptation to the highly proteolytic environment of subgingival plaque, which is exposed continually to an array of host proteases in the inflammatory exudate. In such an environment, miropin may function as an important virulence factor by protecting bacterium from the destructive activity of neutrophil serine proteases. Alternatively, it may act as a housekeeping protein that regulates the activity of endogenous T. forsythia serine proteases.
Keywords: Infectious Disease; Periodontal Disease; Protease Inhibitor; Serine Protease; Serpin; Tannerella forsythia.
© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.