A multifunctional protease inhibitor to regulate endolysosomal function.
Proteases constitute a major class of drug targets. Endosomal compartments harbor several protease families whose attenuation may be beneficial to a number of biological processes, including inflammation, cancer metastasis, antigen presentation, and parasite clearance. As a step toward the goal of generalized but targeted protease inhibition in the endocytic pathway, we describe here the synthesis, characterization, and cellular application of a novel multifunctional protease inhibitor. We show that pepstatin A, a potent but virtually insoluble inhibitor of cathepsins D and E, can be conjugated to a single site on cystatin C, a potent inhibitor of the papain-like cysteine proteases (PLCP) and of asparagine endopeptidease (AEP), to create a highly soluble compound capable of suppressing the activity of all 3 principal protease families found in endosomes and lysosomes. We demonstrate that this cystatin-pepstatin inhibitor (CPI) can be taken up by cells to modulate protease activity and affect biological responses.