Selective Substrates and Activity-Based Probes for Imaging of the Human Constitutive 20S Proteasome in Cells and Blood Samples

J Med Chem. 2018 Jun 28;61(12):5222-5234. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.8b00026. Epub 2018 Jun 9.


The proteasome is an enzyme complex critical for maintaining protein homeostasis. Perturbed proteasome function leads to pathologies including cancer and autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease. Therefore, the proteasome constitutes an excellent molecular target for pharmaceutical development. Here, using the HyCoSuL approach, we designed and synthesized novel and selective fluorogenic substrates for each of these three constitutive 20S proteasome activities and applied them to assess inhibition of proteasome subunits by MG-132 and a clinically used inhibitor bortezomib. Our results confirm the utility of designed substrates in biochemical assays. Furthermore, selective peptide sequences obtained in this manner were used to construct fluorophore-labeled activity-based probes and then utilized to detect each constitutive 20S proteasome subunit simultaneously in lysates of HEK-293F cells and red blood cells. Overall, we describe a simple and rapid method useful to measure constitutive 20S proteasome activity in whole human blood samples that could enable early diagnosis of pathological states associated with aberrantly upregulated proteasome activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leupeptins / pharmacology
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Molecular Probes / chemistry*
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / analysis*
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / blood
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Proteasome Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Leupeptins
  • Molecular Probes
  • Proteasome Inhibitors
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • benzyloxycarbonylleucyl-leucyl-leucine aldehyde