Discovery of Selective Matriptase and Hepsin Serine Protease Inhibitors: Useful Chemical Tools for Cancer Cell Biology

J Med Chem. 2019 Jan 24;62(2):480-490. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.8b01536. Epub 2019 Jan 4.


Matriptase and hepsin belong to the family of type II transmembrane serine proteases (TTSPs). Increased activity of these and the plasma protease, hepatocyte growth factor activator (HGFA), is associated with unregulated cell signaling and tumor progression through increased MET and RON kinase signaling pathways. These proteases are highly expressed in multiple solid tumors and hematological malignancies. Herein, we detail the synthesis and structure-activity relationships (SAR) of a dipeptide library bearing Arg α-ketobenozothiazole (kbt) warheads as novel inhibitors of HGFA, matriptase, and hepsin. We elucidated the substrate specificity for HGFA using positional scanning of substrate combinatorial libraries (PS-SCL), which was used to discover selective inhibitors of matriptase and hepsin. Using these selective inhibitors, we have clarified the specific role of hepsin in maintaining epithelial cell membrane integrity, known to be lost in breast cancer progression. These selective compounds are useful as chemical biology tools and for future drug discovery efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Dipeptides / chemistry
  • Dipeptides / metabolism
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Humans
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Serine Endopeptidases / chemistry*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Dipeptides
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • HGF activator
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • hepsin
  • matriptase