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Open Access Commentary

S28 peptidases: lessons from a seemingly 'dysfunctional' family of two

John W Kozarich

Author Affiliations

ActivX Biosciences, Inc., 11025 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92027, USA

BMC Biology 2010, 8:87  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-8-87

Published: 28 June 2010


A recent paper in BMC Structural Biology reports the crystal structure of human prolylcarboxypeptidase (PRCP), one of the two members of the S28 peptidase family. Comparison of the substrate-binding site of PRCP with that of its family partner, dipeptidyl dipeptidase 7 (DPP7), helps to explain the different enzymatic activities of these structurally similar proteins, and also reveals a novel apparent charge-relay system in PRCP involving the active-site catalytic histidine.

See research article: webcite

The S28 serine peptidase family is something of an enzymatic odd couple. While showing low sequence similarity to all proteins except each other, the two known family members appear to be at odds functionally; one, prolylcarboxypeptidase (PRCP), is a carboxypeptidase that cleaves single hydrophobic residues from the carboxyl termini of proteins that end with a Pro-X motif (where X is any hydrophobic amino acid), while the other, human dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP7), is an aminopeptidase that cleaves amino-terminal X-Pro dipeptides. The structural basis of this orthogonal specificity would undoubtedly be interesting, and a recent report in BMC Structural Biology from the Merck Global Structural Biology group (Soisson et al. [1]) has now met that expectation. In addition they reveal a new wrinkle to the iconic catalytic triad common to most serine hydrolases.

The practical pharmaceutical interest in both these enzymes as potential drug targets is at present speculative. PRCP can inactivate a number of peptide hormones, such as angiotensin II, III and prekallikrein, implicating a role for the enzyme in hypertension, tissue proliferation and smooth-muscle growth. These properties suggest that this enzyme may well be a useful target for hypertension and anti-inflammatory therapy [2]. Another (non-S28 family) dipeptidyl dipeptidase (DPP4) is a major drug target in type 2 diabetes, and Merck has already developed a successful inhibitor of DPP4, the anti-hyperglycemic drug sitagliptin, for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The DPP enzymes are rich in biological functions and other drug targets emerging from the group are possible [3].