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An analytical method has been developed for the continuous monitoring of protease activity on unlabeled peptides in real time by fluorescence spectroscopy. The assay is enabled by a reporter pair comprising the macrocycle cucurbit[7]uril (CB7) and the fluorescent dye acridine orange (AO). CB7 functions by selectively recognizing N-terminal phenylalanine residues as they are produced during the enzymatic cleavage of enkephalin-type peptides by the metalloendopeptidase thermolysin. The substrate peptides (e.g., Thr-Gly-Ala-Phe-Met-NH2) bind to CB7 with moderately high affinity (K ≈ 104 M–1), while their cleavage products (e.g., Phe-Met-NH2) bind very tightly (K > 106 M–1). AO signals the reaction upon its selective displacement from the macrocycle by the high affinity product of proteolysis. The resulting supramolecular tandem enzyme assay effectively measures the kinetics of thermolysin, including the accurate determination of sequence specificity (Ser and Gly instead of Ala), stereospecificity (d-Ala instead of l-Ala), endo- versus exopeptidase activity (indicated by differences in absolute fluorescence response), and sensitivity to terminal charges (−CONH2 vs −COOH). The capability of the tandem assay to measure protease inhibition constants was demonstrated on phosphoramidon as a known inhibitor to afford an inhibition constant of (17.8 ± 0.4) nM. This robust and label-free approach to the study of protease activity and inhibition should be transferable to other endo- and exopeptidases that afford products with N-terminal aromatic amino acids.




American Chemical Society

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Journal of the American Chemical Society

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