Bioactive peptides have evolved to optimally fulfill specific biological functions, a fact which has long attracted attention for their use as therapeutic agents. While there have been some recent commercial successes fostered in part by advances in large-scale peptide synthesis, development of peptides as therapeutic agents has been significantly impeded by their inherent susceptibility to protease degradation in the bloodstream. Here we report that incorporation of specially designed amino acid analogues at the P1 position, directly C-terminal of the enzyme cleavage site, renders peptides, including glucagon-like peptide-1 (7-36) amide (GLP-1) and six other examples, highly resistant to serine protease degradation without significant alteration of their biological activity. We demonstrate the applicability of the method to a variety of proteases, including dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP IV), dipeptidyl peptidase 8 (DPP8), fibroblast activation protein ? (FAP?), ?-lytic protease (?LP), trypsin, and chymotrypsin. In summary, the "P1 modification" represents a simple, general, and highly adaptable method of generating enzymatically stable peptide-based therapeutics.
Fibroblast activation protein (FAP) is a serine protease selectively expressed on reactive stromal fibroblasts of epithelial carcinomas. It is widely believed to play a role in tumor invasion and metastasis and therefore to represent a potential new drug target for cancer. Investigation into its biological function, however, has been hampered by the current unavailability of selective inhibitors. The challenge has been in identifying inhibitors that are selective for FAP over both the dipeptidyl peptidases (DPPs), with which it shares exopeptidase specificity, and prolyl oligopeptidase (PREP), with which it shares endopeptidase specificity. Here, we report the first potent FAP inhibitor with selectivity over both the DPPs and PREP, N-(pyridine-4-carbonyl)-d-Ala-boroPro (ARI-3099, 6). We also report a similarly potent and selective PREP inhibitor, N-(pyridine-3-carbonyl)-Val-boroPro (ARI-3531, 22). Both are boronic acid based inhibitors, demonstrating that high selectivity can be achieved using this electrophile. The inhibitors are stable, easy to synthesize, and should prove to be useful in helping to elucidate the biological functions of these two unique and interesting enzymes, as well as their potential as drug targets.
Bortezomib, a dipeptidyl boronic acid and potent inhibitor of the 26S proteasome, is remarkably effective against multiple myeloma (MM) but not against solid tumors. Dose-limiting adverse effects from "on target" inhibition of the proteasome in normal cells and tissues appear to be a key obstacle. Achieving efficacy against solid tumors therefore is likely to require making the inhibitor more selective for tumor tissue over normal tissues. The simplest strategy that might provide such tissue specificity would be to employ a tumor specific protease to release an inhibitor from a larger, noninhibitory structure. However, such release would necessarily generate an inhibitor with a free N-terminal amino group, raising a key question: Can short peptide boronic acids with N-terminal amino groups have the requisite properties to serve as warheads in prodrugs? Here we show that dipeptides of boroLeu, the smallest plausible candidates for the task, can indeed be sufficiently potent, cell-penetrating, cytotoxic, and stable to degradation by cellular peptidases to serve in this capacity.
Val-boroPro, 1, is a potent, but relatively nonspecific inhibitor of the prolyl peptidases. It has antihyperglycemic activity from inhibition of DPPIV but also striking anticancer activity and a toxicity for which the mechanisms are unknown. 1 cyclizes at physiological pH, which attenuates its inhibitory potency >100-fold, which is a "soft drug" effect. Here we show that this phenomenon can be exploited to create prodrugs with unique properties and potential for selective in vivo targeting. Enzyme-mediated release delivers 1 to the target in the active form at physiological pH; cyclization attenuates systemic pharmacological effects from subsequent diffusion. This "pro-soft" design is demonstrated with a construct activated by and targeted to DPPIV, including in vivo results showing improved antihyperglycemic activity and reduced toxicity relative to 1. Pro-soft derivatives of 1 can help to illuminate the mechanisms underlying the three biological activities, or to help localize 1 at a tumor and thereby lead to improved anticancer agents with reduced toxicity. The design concept can also be applied to a variety of other boronic acid inhibitors.
The boroProline-based dipeptidyl boronic acids were among the first DPP-IV inhibitors identified, and remain the most potent known. We introduced various substitutions at the 4-position of the boroProline ring regioselectively and stereoselectively, and incorporated these aminoboronic acids into a series of 4-substituted boroPro-based dipeptides. Among these dipeptidyl boronic acids, Arg-(4S)-boroHyp (4q) was the most potent inhibitor of DPP-IV, DPP8 and DPP9, while (4S)-Hyp-(4R)-boroHyp (4o) exhibited the most selectivity for DPP-IV over DPP8 and DPP9.
The pK(a) value of aspartic acid in the catalytic triad of serine proteases has been a pivotal element in essentially every mechanism proposed for these enzymes over the past 40 years, but has, until now, eluded direct determination. Here, we have used the multinuclear 3D-NMR pulse programs HCACO and HCCH-TOCSY to directly identify and study the side-chain resonances of the aspartate and glutamate residues in uniformly (13)C-labeled ?-lytic protease. Resonances from four of the six residues were detected and assigned, including that of Asp(102), which is notably the weakest of the four. pH titrations have shown all of the carboxylate (13)C signals to have unusually low pK(a) values: 2.0, 3.2, and 1.7 for Glu(129), Glu(174), and Glu(229), respectively, and an upper limit of 1.5 for Asp(102). The multiple H-bonds to Asp(102), long known from X-ray crystal studies, probably account for its unusually low pK(a) value through preferential stabilization of its anionic form. These H-bonds probably also contribute to the weakness of the NMR resonances of Asp(102) by restricting its mobility. The Asp(102)(13)C(?) atom responds to the ionization of His(57) in the resting enzyme and to the inhibitor-derived oxyanion in a chloromethyl ketone complex, observations that strongly support the assignment. The low pK(a) value of Asp(102) would appear to be incompatible with mechanisms involving strong Asp(102)-His(57) H-bonds or high pK(a) values, but is compatible with mechanisms involving normal Asp(102)-His(57) H-bonds and moving His(57) imidazole rings, such as the reaction-driven ring flip.
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