Maximakinin is an N-terminally extended bradykinin (DLPKINRKGPRPPGFSPFR) from the venom of a Chinese toad (Bombina maxima) that displays highly selective activity at mammalian arterial smooth muscle receptors. In this study, we report that incubation of maximakinin with either kallikrein or human saliva generates catabolites with enhanced bioactivity that retain the tissue selective effects of the parent molecule. In addition, we have observed that kallikrein rapidly cleaves the C-terminal arginyl residue of both maximakinin and bradykinin – a cleavage hitherto considered to be performed by a carboxypeptidase that facilitates selective bradykinin receptor targeting. Maximakinin has thus evolved as a `smart' defensive weapon in the toad with inherent resistance to the signal-terminating protease hardware in the potential predator. Thus, natural selection of amphibian skin peptides for antipredator defence, through interspecies delivery by an exogenous secretory mode, produces subtle structural stabilization modifications that can potentially provide new insights for the design of orally active and selectively targeted peptide therapeutics.
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