A serine protease activity in C3H/10T1/2 cells that is inhibited by anticarcinogenic protease inhibitors.


Several different protease inhibitors have the ability to suppress transformation in vitro and carcinogenesis in vivo. The mechanism(s) by which protease inhibitors suppress carcinogenesis, however, is not fully understood. Presumably, these agents inhibit one or more intracellular proteases whose functions are essential for the induction and/or expression of the transformed phenotype. We have isolated an endopeptidase activity capable of hydrolyzing the substrate Boc-Val-Pro-Arg-MCA (Boc = butoxycarbonyl; MCA = 7-amino-4-methylcoumarin) from C3H/10T1/2 mouse embryo fibroblast cells. This intracellular protease was inhibited by the soybean-derived Bowman-Birk inhibitor (BBI), chymostatin, and L-1-tosylamido-2-phenylethyl chloromethyl ketone, all of which have anticarcinogenic activity, but was unaffected by soybean trypsin inhibitor, which lacks anticarcinogenic activity. Other protease inhibitors affected the proteolytic activity to an extent that correlates with their relative ability to suppress transformation in vitro. The enzyme has a mass of about 70 kDa, contains a single subunit, and exhibits maximal activity at pH 7.0. Diisopropyl fluorophosphate covalently binds to this enzyme and blocks its activity, indicating that the enzyme is a serine protease. We have previously demonstrated that several protease inhibitors are effective suppressors of radiation-induced transformation of C3H/10T1/2 cells. Since these agents reduce the Boc-Val-Pro-Arg-MCA-hydrolyzing activity to an extent that correlates with their ability to inhibit malignant transformation in vitro, this endopeptidase activity may be a cellular target of the anticarcinogenic protease inhibitors.

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