Kunitz-type (KT) protease inhibitors are low molecular weight proteins classically defined as serine protease inhibitors. We identified a novel secreted KT inhibitor associated with the gut and parenchymal tissues of the infective juvenile stage of Fasciola hepatica, a helminth parasite of medical and veterinary importance. Unexpectedly, recombinant KT inhibitor (rFhKT1) exhibited no inhibitory activity towards serine proteases but was a potent inhibitor of the major secreted cathepsin L cysteine proteases of F. hepatica, FhCL1 and FhCL2, and of human cathepsins L and K (Ki = 0.4 nM - 27 nM). FhKT1 prevented the auto-catalytic activation of FhCL1 and FhCL2 and formed stable complexes with the mature enzymes. Pull-down experiments from adult parasite culture medium showed that rFhKT1 interacts specifically with native secreted FhCL1, FhCL2 and FhCL5. Substitution of the unusual P1 Leu15 within the exposed reactive loop of FhKT1 for the more commonly found Arg (FhKT1Leu15/Arg15) had modest adverse effects on the cysteine protease inhibition but conferred potent activity against the serine protease trypsin (Ki = 1.5 nM). Computational docking and sequence analysis provided hypotheses for the exclusive binding of FhKT1 to cysteine proteases, the importance of the Leu15 in anchoring the inhibitor into the S2 active site pocket, and the inhibitor's selectivity towards FhCL1, FhCL2 and human cathepsins L and K. FhKT1 represents a novel evolutionary adaptation of KT protease inhibitors by F. hepatica, with its prime purpose likely in the regulation of the major parasite-secreted proteases and/or cathepsin L-like proteases of its host.
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Fasciola hepatica cystatins: recombinant production, biochemical characterisation and efficacy as vaccinesAuthor: Drysdale, O., Jul 2020
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis › Doctor of Philosophy