Bifunctional ligands of the bradykinin B2 and B1 receptors: An exercise in peptide hormone plasticity

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Graphical abstractHighlightsModification of the fragile bradykinin-related peptides has a long history.Antagonist behavior and resistance to peptidases have been pursued.Also conjugation with a fluorophore, a drug, an epitope or a cleavable sequence.Recent biotechnological ligands are fusion proteins that bind to kinin receptors.Kinins are the small and fragile hydrophilic peptides related to bradykinin (BK) and derived from circulating kininogens via the action of kallikreins. Kinins bind to the preformed and widely distributed B2 receptor (B2R) and to the inducible B1 receptor (B1R). B2Rs and B1Rs are related G protein coupled receptors that possess natural agonist ligands of nanomolar affinity (BK and Lys BK for B2Rs, Lys-des-Arg9-BK for B1R). Decades of structure-activity exploration have resulted in the production of peptide analogs that are antagonists, one of which is clinically used (the B2R antagonist icatibant), and also non-peptide ligands for both receptor subtypes. The modification of kinin receptor ligands has made them resistant to extracellular or endosomal peptidases and/or produced bifunctional ligands, defined as agonist or antagonist peptide ligands conjugated with a chemical fluorophore (emitting in the whole spectrum, from the infrared to the ultraviolet), a drug-like moiety, an epitope, an isotope chelator/carrier, a cleavable sequence (thus forming a pro-drug) and even a fused protein. Dual molecular targets for specific modified peptides may be a source of side effects or of medically exploitable benefits. Biotechnological protein ligands for either receptor subtype have been produced: they are enhanced green fluorescent protein or the engineered peroxidase APEX2 fused to an agonist kinin sequence at their C-terminal terminus. Antibodies endowed with pharmacological actions (agonist, antagonist) at B2R have been reported, though not monoclonal antibodies. These findings define classes of alternative ligands of the kinin receptor of potential therapeutic and diagnostic value.

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