The potential role of α2-macroglobulin in the control of cysteine proteinases (gingipains) from Porphyromonas gingivalis

H. Grøn, R. Pike, J. Potempa, J. Travis, I. B. Thøgersen, J. J. Enghild, S. V. Pizzo

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Porphyromonas gingivalis is closely associated with the development of some forms of periodontitis. The major cysteine proteinases released by this bacterium hydrolyze peptide bonds only after arginyl (gingipain R) or lysyl residues (gingipain K). No target protein inhibitors have been identified for either enzyme, leading us to investigate their inhibition by human plasma α2-macroglobulin (α2M). Both 50- and 95 kDa gingipain R were efficiently inhibited by α2M, whereas the catalytic activity of gingipain K could not be eliminated. All 3 enzymes were, however, inhibited by a homologous macroglobulin from rat plasma, α1-inhibitor-3 (α1I3). α-Macroglobulins must be cleaved in the so-called "bait region" in order to inhibit proteinases by a mechanism involving physical entrapment of the enzyme. A comparison of the aminio acid sequences of the 2 macroglobulins indicates that the lack of lysyl residues within the bait region of α2M protects Lys-specific proteinases from being trapped. On this basis, other highly specific proteinases might also not be inhibited by α2M, possibly explaining the inability of the inhibitor to control proteolytic activity in some bacterially induced inflammatory states, despite its abundance (2-5 mg/ml) in vascular fluids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-68
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Periodontal Research
Issue number1 PART 1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • α-macroglobulin
  • Gingipain
  • Periodontitis
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis

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