Proteases May Be Secreted As Catalytically Inactive Proenzymes

Certain proteins are synthesized and secreted as inactive precursor proteins known as proproteins. The proproteins of enzymes are termed proenzymes or zymogens. Selective proteolysis converts a proprotein by one or more successive proteolytic "clips" to a form that exhibits the characteristic activity of the mature protein, eg, its enzymatic activity. Proteins synthesized as proproteins include the hormone insulin (proprotein = proinsulin), the digestive enzymes pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin (proproteins = pepsinogen, trypsinogen, and chymotrypsinogen, respectively), several factors of the blood clotting and blood clot dissolution cascades (see Chapter 51), and the connective tissue protein collagen (proprotein = procollagen).

Proenzymes Facilitate Rapid Mobilization of an Activity in Response to Physiologic Demand

The synthesis and secretion of proteases as catalytically inactive proenzymes protects the tissue of origin (eg, the pancreas) from autodigestion, such as can occur in pancreatitis. Certain physiologic processes such as digestion are intermittent but fairly regular and predictable. Others such as blood clot formation, clot dissolution, and tissue repair are brought "on line" only in response to pressing physiologic or pathophysiologic need. The processes of blood clot formation and dissolution clearly must be temporally coordinated to achieve homeostasis. Enzymes needed intermittently but rapidly often are secreted in an initially inactive form since the secretion process or new synthesis of the required proteins might be insufficiently rapid for response to a pressing pathophysiologic demand such as the loss of blood.

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Figure 9-6. Selective proteolysis and associated conformational changes form the active site of chymotrypsin, which includes the Asp102-His57-Ser195 catalytic triad. Successive proteolysis forms prochymotrypsin (pro-CT), n-chymotrypsin (n-CT), and ultimately a-chymotrypsin (a-CT), an active protease whose three peptides remain associated by covalent inter-chain disulfide bonds.

Activation of Prochymotrypsin Requires Selective Proteolysis

Selective proteolysis involves one or more highly specific proteolytic clips that may or may not be accompanied by separation of the resulting peptides. Most importantly, selective proteolysis often results in conformational changes that "create" the catalytic site of an enzyme. Note that while His 57 and Asp 102 reside on the B peptide of a-chymotrypsin, Ser 195 resides on the C peptide (Figure 9-6). The conforma-tional changes that accompany selective proteolysis of prochymotrypsin (chymotrypsinogen) align the three residues of the charge-relay network, creating the catalytic site. Note also that contact and catalytic residues can be located on different peptide chains but still be within bond-forming distance of bound substrate.

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