Potent and specific enzyme inhibition is a key goal in the development of therapeutic inhibitors targeting proteolytic activity. The backbone-cyclized peptide, Sunflower Trypsin Inhibitor (SFTI-1) affords a scaffold that can be engineered to achieve both these aims. SFTI-1's mechanism of inhibition is unusual in that it shows fast-on/slow-off kinetics driven by cleavage and religation of a scissile bond. This phenomenon was used to select a nanomolar inhibitor of kallikrein-related peptidase 7 (KLK7) from a versatile library of SFTI variants with diversity tailored to exploit distinctive surfaces present in the active site of serine proteases. Inhibitor selection was achieved through the use of size exclusion chromatography to separate protease/inhibitor complexes from unbound inhibitors followed by inhibitor identification according to molecular mass ascertained by mass spectrometry. This approach identified a single dominant inhibitor species with molecular weight of 1562.4 Da, which is consistent with the SFTI variant SFTI-WCTF. Once synthesized individually this inhibitor showed an IC 50 of 173.9 6 7.6 nM against chromogenic substrates and could block protein proteolysis. Molecular modeling analysis suggested that selection of SFTI-WCTF was driven by specific aromatic interactions and stabilized by an enhanced internal hydrogen bonding network. This approach provides a robust and rapid route to inhibitor selection and design.
- Inhibitor library
- Sunflower trypsin inhibitor