A double-headed cathepsin B inhibitor devoid of warhead

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Abstract

Most synthetic inhibitors of peptidases have been targeted to the active site for inhibiting catalysis through reversible competition with the substrate or by covalent modification of catalytic groups. Cathepsin B is unique among the cysteine peptidase for the presence of a flexible segment, known as the occluding loop, which can block the primed subsites of the substrate binding cleft. With the occluding loop in the open conformation cathepsin B acts as an endopeptidase, and it acts as an exopeptidase when the loop is closed. We have targeted the occluding loop of human cathepsin B at its surface, outside the catalytic center, using a high-throughput docking procedure. The aim was to identify inhibitors that would interact with the occluding loop thereby modulating enzyme activity without the help of chemical warheads against catalytic residues. From a large library of compounds, the in silico approach identified [2-[2-(2,4-dioxo-1,3-thiazolidin-3-yl)ethylamino]-2-oxoethyl] 2-(furan-2-carbonylamino) acetate, which fulfills the working hypothesis. This molecule possesses two distinct binding moieties and behaves as a reversible, double-headed competitive inhibitor of cathepsin B by excluding synthetic and protein substrates from the active center. The kinetic mechanism of inhibition suggests that the occluding loop is stabilized in its closed conformation, mainly by hydrogen bonds with the inhibitor, thus decreasing endoproteolytic activity of the enzyme. Furthermore, the dioxothiazolidine head of the compound sterically hinders binding of the C-terminal residue of substrates resulting in inhibition of the exopeptidase activity of cathepsin B in a physiopathologically relevant pH range.

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