Prostate-specific antigen is a "chymotrypsin-like" serine protease with unique P1 substrate specificity

Aaron M. LeBeau, Pratap Singh, John T. Isaacs, Samuel R. Denmeade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a serine protease belonging to the human kallikrein family, is best known as a prostate cancer biomarker. Emerging evidence suggests that PSA may also play a salient role in prostate cancer development and progression. With large amounts of enzymatically active PSA continuously and selectively produced by all stages of prostate cancer, PSA is an attractive target. PSA inhibitors, therefore, may represent a promising class of therapeutics and/or imaging agents. PSA displays chymotrypsin-like specificity, cleaving after hydrophobic residues, in addition to possessing a unique ability to cleave after glutamine in the P1 position. In this study, we investigated the structural motifs of the PSA S1 pocket that give it a distinct architecture and specificity when compared to the S1 pocket of chymotrypsin. Using the previously described PSA substrate Ser-Ser-Lys-Leu-Gln (SSKLQ) as a template, peptide aldehyde based inhibitors containing novel P1 aldehydes were made and tested against both proteases. Glutamine derivative aldehydes were highly specific for PSA while inhibitors with hydrophobic P1 aldehydes were potent inhibitors of both proteases with K i values <500 nM. The crystal structure of PSA was used to generate a model that allowed GOLD docking studies to be performed to further understand the critical interactions required for inhibitor binding to the S1 pockets of PSA and chymotrypsin. In conclusion, these results provide experimental and structural evidence that the S1 specificity pocket of PSA is distinctly different from that of chymotrypsin and that the development of highly specific PSA inhibitors is feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3490-3496
Number of pages7
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 21 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Prostate-specific antigen is a "chymotrypsin-like" serine protease with unique P1 substrate specificity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this