Chemical mechanism of a cysteine protease, cathepsin C, as revealed by integration of both steady-state and pre-steady-state solvent kinetic isotope effects. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cathepsin C, or dipeptidyl peptidase I, is a lysosomal cysteine protease of the papain family that catalyzes the sequential removal of dipeptides from the free N-termini of proteins and peptides. Using the dipeptide substrate Ser-Tyr-AMC, cathepsin C was characterized in both steady-state and pre-steady-state kinetic modes. The pH(D) rate profiles for both log k cat/ K m and log k cat conformed to bell-shaped curves for which an inverse solvent kinetic isotope effect (sKIE) of 0.71 +/- 0.14 for (D)( k cat/ K a) and a normal sKIE of 2.76 +/- 0.03 for (D) k cat were obtained. Pre-steady-state kinetics exhibited a single-exponential burst of AMC formation in which the maximal acylation rate ( k ac = 397 +/- 5 s (-1)) was found to be nearly 30-fold greater than the rate-limiting deacylation rate ( k dac = 13.95 +/- 0.013 s (-1)) and turnover number ( k cat = 13.92 +/- 0.001 s (-1)). Analysis of pre-steady-state burst kinetics in D 2O allowed abstraction of a normal sKIE for the acylation half-reaction that was not observed in steady-state kinetics. Since normal sKIEs were obtained for all measurable acylation steps in the presteady state [ (D) k ac = 1.31 +/- 0.04, and the transient kinetic isotope effect at time zero (tKIE (0)) = 2.3 +/- 0.2], the kinetic step(s) contributing to the inverse sKIE of (D)( k cat/ K a) must occur more rapidly than the experimental time frame of the transient kinetics. Results are consistent with a chemical mechanism in which acylation occurs via a two-step process: the thiolate form of Cys-234, which is enriched in D 2O and gives rise to the inverse value of (D)( k cat/ K a), attacks the substrate to form a tetrahedral intermediate that proceeds to form an acyl-enzyme intermediate during a proton transfer step expressing a normal sKIE. The subsequent deacylation half-reaction is rate-limiting, with proton transfers exhibiting normal sKIEs. Through derivation of 12 equations describing all kinetic parameters and sKIEs for the proposed cathepsin C mechanism, integration of both steady-state and pre-steady-state kinetics with sKIEs allowed the provision of at least one self-consistent set of values for all 13 rate constants in this cysteine protease's chemical mechanism. Simulation of the resulting kinetic profile showed that at steady state approximately 80% of the enzyme exists in an active-site cysteine-acylated form in the mechanistic pathway. The chemical and kinetic details deduced from this work provide a potential roadmap to help steer drug discovery efforts for this and other disease-relevant cysteine proteases.

published proceedings

  • Biochemistry

author list (cited authors)

  • Schneck, J. L., Villa, J. P., McDevitt, P., McQueney, M. S., Thrall, S. H., & Meek, T. D.

citation count

  • 28

complete list of authors

  • Schneck, Jessica L||Villa, James P||McDevitt, Patrick||McQueney, Michael S||Thrall, Sara H||Meek, Thomas D

publication date

  • August 2008