Journal of Molecular Medicine

, Volume 83, Issue 11, pp 844–855 | Cite as

Inhibitors of proprotein convertases



The discovery of mammalian subtilases, proprotein convertases (PCs) or subtilisin-like proprotein convertases (SPCs), in 1990 was a result of sustained efforts in searching for enzyme/s responsible for maturation of inactive protein precursors. Since then, seven PCs have so far been discovered that cleave at the carboxy-terminal of a basic amino acid characterized by the consensus sequence Arg/Lys/His-X-X/Lys/Arg-Arg↓, where X denotes any amino acid other than Cys. Two additional PC subtypes—called subtilisin kexin isozyme 1 (SKI-1) or site 1 protease (S1P) and neural apoptosis regulated convertase 1 (NARC-1), also known as PCSK9—that cleave at the carboxy terminus of nonbasic amino acids were discovered later. Numerous studies revealed various important functional roles of PCs in health and diseases such as tumorigenesis, diabetes, viral infections, bacterial pathogenesis, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenarative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Owing to these findings, PCs became a promising frontier for treatment of diverse pathologies. Thus modulation of PC activity with designed inhibitors is an attractive proposition not only for intervention of diseases, but also for biochemical characterization of these enzymes. Various physiological and bioengineered proteins as well as small molecules such as peptide, peptidomimetic, and nonpeptide compounds as inhibitors of PCs have been described in the literature. Among the strategies used for design of PC inhibitors, the most successful is the one based on bioengineered serpin proteins, of which the best example is α1-PDX, the double mutant variant of α1-antitrypsin (from A355IPM358 to R355IPR358). Others include small peptide inhibitors with C-terminal carboxyl function modified with a potent neucleophile or those containing pseudo or isosteric peptide bond at the scissile site of a suitable peptide substrate. Among nonpeptide PC inhibitors, the number is very limited. So far, these include 20-carbon atoms containing alicyclic diterpenes of andrographolide family and heterocyclic compounds that are ligands of Zn2+ and Cu2+ ions. Overall, these molecules display only a modest enzyme inhibition; however, they may serve as important lead structures for further development of more potent and specific nonpeptide PC inhibitors as potential therapeutic agents. Many PC inhibitors display their functional properties in proliferation, fertilization, tumorigenesis, obesity, embryogenesis, or diabetes via their inhibitory action on PC activities.


Proprotein convertases Subtilisin proprotein convertases Protease inhibitors Antiproteolytic agents Enzyme assay Inhibition constant Pseudopeptide Serpin 



The work was supported by grants from CFI, CIHR, NSERC and the University of Ottawa.


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© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Regional Protein Chemistry Center, Diseases of Aging ProgramOttawa Health Research InstituteOttawaCanada

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