amastigote and promastigote soluble proteinases were purified using gel filtration and ion exchange chromatography. For the amastigotes, two main proteinase activity peaks were separated with both methods. These accounted for approximately 10% and 90% of the total activity. Characterization of the two activities for substrate specificity and sensitivity to inhibitors indicated that the major peak from both column methods contained enzymes with the characteristics of cysteine proteinases. SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of the enzyme from the major peak purified by gel filtration revealed one polypeptide with a molecular weight in the region of 31000. In contrast, the activity of the minor peak eluted from the columns was of higher molecular weight (67000) and was similar to metalloproteinases. Purification of the soluble proteinases in the promastigote of produced only one activity peak from both column techniques. This activity (mol. wt 67000) corresponded to the high molecular weight proteinase of the amastigote. The purified proteinases were active on 4-nitroanilide and 7-amino-4-methylcoumarin derivatives of various small peptides. The high molecular weight proteinases of both amastigotes and promastigotes were similarly active against most of the peptides, suggesting a low specificity of the enzymes. In contrast, the low molecular weight amastigote proteinases were particularly active against two of the substrates, namely BZ-Pro-Phe-Arg-Nan and Z-Phe-Arg-MCA. These results indicate that a highly active, substrate-specific, soluble proteinase, with characteristics of a cysteine proteinase, is produced upon transformation of the promastigote to amastigote. The discovery and characterization of this enzyme offers opportunities for the development of new antileishmanial agents.


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