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Protease-substrate interactions are governed by a variety of structural features. Although the substrate sequence specificities of numerous proteases have been established, "topological specificities," whereby proteases may be classified based on recognition of distinct three-dimensional structural motifs, have not. The aggrecanase members of the ADAMTS (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs) family cleave a variety of proteins but do not seem to possess distinct sequence specificities. In the present study, the topological substrate specificity of ADAMTS-4 (aggrecanase-1) was examined using triple-helical or single-stranded poly(Pro) II helical peptides. Substrate topology modulated the affinity and sequence specificity of ADAMTS-4 with K(m) values indicating a preference for triple-helical structure. In turn, non-catalytic ADAMTS-4 domains were critical for hydrolysis of triple-helical and poly(Pro) II helical substrates. Comparison of ADAMTS-4 with MMP-1 (collagenase 1), MMP-13 (collagenase 3), trypsin, and thermolysin using triple-helical peptide (THP) and single-stranded peptide (SSP) substrates demonstrated that all five proteases possessed efficient "triple-helical peptidase" activity and fell into one of two categories: (k(cat)/K(m))(SSP) > (k(cat)/K(m))(THP) (thermolysin, trypsin, and MMP-13) or (k(cat)/K(m))(THP) > or = (k(cat)/K(m))(SSP) and (K(m))(SSP) > (K(m))(THP) (MMP-1 and ADAMTS-4). Overall these results suggest that topological specificity may be a guiding principle for protease behavior and can be utilized to design specific substrates and inhibitors. The triple-helical and single-stranded poly(Pro) II helical peptides represent the first synthetic substrates successfully designed for aggrecanases.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





142 - 150


ADAM Proteins, ADAMTS4 Protein, Amino Acid Sequence, Circular Dichroism, Escherichia coli, Humans, Kinetics, Matrix Metalloproteinase 1, Matrix Metalloproteinase 13, Molecular Sequence Data, Peptides, Procollagen N-Endopeptidase, Protein Binding, Protein Conformation, Protein Structure, Secondary, Substrate Specificity