Engineering bidentate macromolecular inhibitors for trypsin and urokinase-type plasminogen activator

J Mol Biol. 1998 Jun 19;279(4):1001-11. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1998.1749.


Ecotin, a dimeric serine protease inhibitor from Escherichia coli, is a novel platform for inhibitor design. An approach using the three-dimensional structure of the ecotin-trypsin complex to guide combinatiorial design efforts was taken to create potent bidentate ecotin inhibitors for trypsin and human urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA). The ecotin surface loop that was redesigned is composed of residues 67 to 70 (60 s loop), and binds to the target protease at a region 25 A from the enzyme active site. Two ecotin phage display libraries were constructed to exploit the binding interactions at the 60 s loop. The ecotin 60X4 library, in which residues 67 to 70 of ecotin were randomized, was panned against rat and bovine trypsin in parallel for four rounds. Panning against bovine trypsin resulted in enrichment of ecotin phage but did not yield a consensus sequence. Panning against rat trypsin resulted in enrichment as well as the ecotin consensus sequence WGFP at positions 67 to 70. The variant ecotin encoded by this sequence inhibited rat trypsin at 80 pM, a 12-fold improvement over ecotin wild-type (WT). A second generation library, ecotin M84R+60X4 including an additional methionine to arginine substitution at position 84 in the primary binding site of ecotin, was generated for panning against uPA and rat trypsin. Panning against rat trypsin resulted in enrichment but no consensus sequence. Panning against uPA resulted in enrichment as well as the different ecotin consensus sequence WGYR at positions 67 to 70. Ecotin M84R+D70R bound to uPA at 50 pM, a 56,000-fold increase in binding compared to ecotin WT. Furthermore, ecotin M84R+D70R achieved a 13,680-fold preference of specificity towards uPA versus rat trypsin. The fact that the 60 s loop of ecotin plays different roles in binding to trypsin and uPA suggests this site can be used to introduce specificity and potency for other members of the serine proteases with a chymotrypsin fold.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Drug Design*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Humans
  • Periplasmic Proteins*
  • Protein Engineering*
  • Rats
  • Trypsin Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Trypsin Inhibitors / genetics
  • Trypsin Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Eco protein, E coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Periplasmic Proteins
  • Trypsin Inhibitors
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator