Aeromonas sobriaserine protease (ASP): a subtilisin family endopeptidase with multiple virulence activities

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Aeromonas sobria serine protease (ASP) is secreted from Aeromonas sobria, a pathogen causing gastroenteritis and sepsis. ASP resembles Saccharomyces cerevisiae Kex2, a member of the subtilisin family, and preferentially cleaves peptide bonds at the C-terminal side of paired basic amino acid residues; also accepting unpaired arginine at the P1 site. Unlike Kex2, however, ASP lacks an intramolecular chaperone N-terminal propeptide, instead utilizes the external chaperone ORF2 for proper folding, therefore, ASP and its homologues constitute a new subfamily in the subtilisin family. Through activation of the kallikrein/kinin system, ASP induces vascular leakage, and presumably causes edema and septic shock. ASP accelerates plasma clotting by α-thrombin generation from prothrombin, whereas it impairs plasma clottability by fibrinogen degradation, together bringing about blood coagulation disorder that occurs in disseminated intravascular coagulation, a major complication of sepsis. From complement C5 ASP liberates C5a that induces neutrophil recruitment and superoxide release, and mast cell degranulation, which are associated with pus formation, tissue injury and diarrhea, respectively. Nicked two-chain ASP also secreted from A. sobria is more resistant to inactivation by α2-macroglobulin than single-chain ASP, thereby raising virulence activities. Thus, ASP is a potent virulence factor and may participate in the pathogenesis of A. sobria infection.

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